2010 – A look back


It’s been one hell of a year and I can’t say I’m terribly sad to see the end of it but my gut feeling is that, however hard I try to be positive, I can’t cover myself in pure optimism regarding 2011.

On 2 January 2010, I wrote a ‘Looking forward to 2010’ post.  I thought it would be interesting to see how right (or wrong) I was.

I wrote:

I expect a lot of changes around in the implementation of the projects and planning laid out in the New Horizons document to come into fruition. It’s about ‘changing focus’ and we have already had ‘consultation documents’ distributed which seem to be proposing some quite dramatic changes in the CMHTs (Community Mental Health Teams).

I know I should some more enthusiastic, after all, the document certainly ‘talks the talk’ about prevention and improvement of access to services but having been barely a year out of the last reorganisation which involved me changing teams and caseloads and having two changes of manager in the last year, it has somewhat quelled my appetite for more imminent (over the next year anyway) change.

But such is the nature of the job, constant changes. All of which at zero cost. There were some noises about ‘Staff Affected by Change consultations’ which doesn’t automatically instil confidence. Oh well, it’ll be interesting to follow where it might lead us over the next year.

My first point related to the ‘New Horizons’ document which I thought would be taking a more prominent role in planning for 2010. I was wrong. New Horizons with its’ focus on prevention and public mental health may well sketch out some new ideas or rather formulate ideas which had been knocking around in ‘the system’ for the last few years but it seems to have been a ‘baby’ of the previous government.

I sure was right about changes in CMHT and my worried noises about circulating ‘Staff Affected by Changes’ documents – but, as it seems, I wasn’t worried enough!  I was already suffering from ‘reconfiguration fatigue’ but didn’t know the half of it as our directors were beavering away with some of the biggest changes for decades and the new government looks for ‘efficiency savings’. Oh dear.

My next point:

Individual budgets, personalisation and the rolling out of such. We have begun to implement the last of the ‘pilots’ and things are beginning to fall into place. I foresee more of the same really although obviously a move out of ‘pilot’ and into ‘implementation’. I expect much confusion and complaining until we all settle into the new ‘way of doing things’ which in the end, will use all the right language and be terribly effective for some people but for others, and possibly those with the least ability to advocate for themselves, will make little difference.

Yep, that was a fairly certain bet and by April 2011 we should have migrated everyone onto the new system. Much confusion and complaining – tick. But that’s as safe a prediction as I could have made due to government targets and attached funding.

The social work Taskforce reports will rumble around over the next year, with much hand wringing by the universities who have been roundly criticised for failing to provide effective placements or levels of education of a new generation of social workers. I expect the GSCC to take a tighter rein in its role as regulator of academic standards.

Nope, no hand wringing by the Universities at all. That criticism seems to have flown under the radar. There have been some of the usual grumblings and gripings but nothing substantial actually done in this area.

And the GSCC has been thought the mire this year itself. It will likely just increase charges so it can retain its ‘independence’ from government but I can’t see it changing very much. It will continue to be detached from practitioners and run by those with little knowledge and insight into front line practice.

And goodbye GSCC. I really didn’t see that coming.  Social Workers will, in the future, be registered by the HPC (Health Professionals Council). I remain fairly neutral in my regard of the HPC to be honest.  I do think that the loss of any desire to regulate social care professionals (as opposed to JUST registered and qualified social workers) is a massive missed opportunity but in the end, it comes down to cost and status, I believe.

The hash that is currently being made of the confusion of the College of Social Work, BASW and Unison grieves me more than a little. I am a member of BASW and a member of Unison. I don’t really understand what a new College will offer me apart from the professional organisation for social workers (BASW) and trade union membership (Unison). I already have both of those. I’m confused. I hope something comes out telling us what the College actually is and will do that is different from BASW.

I’ll write more about the College/BASW/Unison mess in my ‘looking forward’ post as I imagine that play a part over the next year.

I expect the DoLs guidelines and codes of practice to be adjusted and improved through case law primarily but hopefully also by consultation.

Wrong on this one – my attempt to be positive! If anything I am far more critical of the DoLs (Deprivation of Liberty)  guidelines now than I was a year ago. The reason being that I am sorely disappointed by the lack of proper knowledge of them and am seeing that my optimism of case law filling some of the gaps was a triumph of hope over expectation.

DoLs (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) were poorly drafted and largely unknown corner of the generally very good ‘Mental Capacity Act 2005’. My cynicism is currently driven by the lack of understanding of the safeguards in a lot of the care homes I visit.

I know the government has a lot on its place at the moment but I would love a wider consultation on DoLs from a lot of people who now have a couple of years experience of using the procedures because it really does need redrafting and rethinking massively. I’m not putting that in my ‘predictions’ post as I don’t think there’s a proverbial ‘cat’s chance in hell’ of that happening. Not in the next year, not in the next decade. Too few people actually know about it.

There will be changes announced in the funding of care. I wish I could forsee what they are! It partly depends on the outcome of the general election. Whatever is chosen, will have a lot of discussion.

More discussion. That was a fairly safe prediction. There was no resolution of this probably due to the election and the new government wishing to commission their own, new.. commission. This is probably a safe prediction (without the bit about the general election) for the  next few years. No-one wants to make the change because while the current system is wholly inadequate, the thought of people paying for care services isn’t going to be popular.

The theme of the year will be ‘zero-cost changes’ I expect as the public purse strings  continue to be tightened.

Well, I was both wrong and right about that. We aren’t talking about ‘zero-cost changes’ anymore. That illusion has been broken. We are now talking about ‘efficiency savings’  but no pretence that the costs will be ‘zero. They will be reducing as will the front-line services. They already have reduced the amount of man hours we spend with people who need our services.

‘Public purse strings being tightened’ was a wholly inappropriate euphemism in the face of such wide-spread public service cuts and cuts in our own services. This isn’t trimming the fat, this isn’t tightening the purse strings – this is a wholesale massacre.

I also expect a year influenced by ‘Payment by Results’ in Mental Health services and outcome scales such as HoNOS and HoNOS 65+ which will be used to measure our ‘effectiveness’

Again, that’s half-true. It is still all in progress but I expect the change to be continued into the new year. Outcome measures seem to be a favoured ‘baby’ of our new government. I remain somewhat sceptical for one reason. I hate having to classify people according to diagnosis. It moves against every person-centred theory in my body. We are asked to reduce everything down to diagnosis and improvement. What works for broken limbs in terms of measuring recovery doesn’t have the same ‘results’ in mental health services. I promised  a post about outcome measures in mental health last year. I didn’t deliver on that – maybe I’ll get down to it next year!

Of course, I didn’t predict how deep the cuts would hurt. What changes there have been in local and national government agendas but to be fair, none of the parties were clear about what they were planning after the election.

On the positive side, I took my first social work student as a practice assessor and undertook and completed the Practice Education branch of my Higher Specialist Award although to be honest, I have no idea how post-qualification training will look in the future.

I had a great student and really enjoyed the experience. I’m considering taking another student but this time as a off site Practice Assessor  but the difficulty is that the office is so busy at the moment with the understaffing/shifting everyone to personal budgets/outcome scales and AMHP/BIA work it is hard to know where to fit in a student.

Our training budgets have also been cut catastrophically. I certainly won’t be able to progress with my Higher Specialist Award this year or in the immediate future. I chose a very good time to pick up the training though as had I delayed, I doubt there would have been funding for it this year.

Other than that, on a personal basis my year has been marked by illness. I went into hospital earlier this year and had a long period of sickness. I have never had that in my life and it was a shock. I was impatient in my recovery and probably went back to work sooner than I should have and suffered as a result! But now I feel much much better than I did prior to the surgery. I am not experiencing any pain at all and am no longer frightened about general anaesthetic. Result all round. Massive credit to the wonderful staff and hospital I was treated at. I honestly couldn’t have bought better care than that I was provided with free even if I had all the money in the world.

My partner’s parents have both been very sick.  They live overseas. I see the difference in the systems here and there with a striking clarity. I am still very glad that we have the social support here that we do  but am so terrified about what is being stripped away. I won’t give it up without a fight. That has been an overriding theme of the second half of the year.

This was the first year without a parent around. That feels more lonely although in a way, I’m glad my dad never knew about my own health problems. He would just have worried and it all turned out well enough.

As for the politics – I’ve mentioned this many times but I am angry. I am angry that this government is ripping apart this country’s social fabric and creating a blame culture.  The election obviously was a key point of the last year but however nasty I always thought the Conservative Party was, I didn’t expect them to be quite as obviously callous with their cuts that they have been. And the Liberal Democrats – didn’t see that coming. They seem to have picked up the pace of cuts with an undisguised fervour. Major learning point politically for 2010 – never ever vote Liberal Democrat again (I’m sorry everyone, I really am doing my utter best to atone for that failing Sad smile ).

One of the saddest conversations I had over this ‘holiday’ period was with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to for about three years. She lives in another part of the country and we don’t catch up much. She has two children and told me how ashamed she was about being a ‘benefit scrounger’. I chastised her for describing herself as such and explained with fervour how she was entirely entitled to what she was claiming but she sighed and shock her head sadly, with a degree of self-loathing.

That makes me angry. It makes me angry that those who need are being reduced to shame for claiming entirely what they are entitled to. That’s not a society I want to subscribe to however ‘big’ it is. I want to live in a society that gives pride rather than heaps shame on people.

But I’ll look at predictions for the next year over the rest of this week.

I will try to be as optimistic as it is humanly possible to be…

5 thoughts on “2010 – A look back

  1. Surprisingly, when I looked into this, the guidance (Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards A guide for family, friends and unpaid carers) was published way back in March 2009.

    As a Carer with a relative with Dementia in a secure home I can say no such information was ever passed my way at any point, in fact no mention of DoLs.

    It seems to me as ever that the DoH has no idea who family Carers are as usual.

    The above mentioned document can be viewed here
    http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/documents/digitalasset/dh_095894.pdf

    • Thanks for that ians12 and your contribution. I hope there will be more focus on this over the next year/s.

  2. The College has to be an improvement on the present mechanisms of standard setting at qualifying and post qualifying and has to ‘pull together’ the knowledge base of the profession and give the profession the informed voice to speak out about societal matters to which it can have some claim to to have informed knowledge about. Neither Unison or BASW have really done this ( although BASW has significantly improved in the last eighteen months) The many other Social Work focused ‘collectives’ whilst producing s0me valuable inititives do not cooperate. The profession also needs a body which as part of role can replace the National Institute of Social Work but which is funded by members not Government.

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