Tag Archives: news

Why social work needs to get PRoactive

I enjoyed reading this article;
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6122296.ece
Anything coming from the keyboards of journalists working for the UK’s most revered newspaper must surely be worth listening to; or should they? If you read the comments below the link you will see that all is not as the writer suggests. And you can be sure that following the recent media witch hunt against care as a profession that next in line for ridicule are social workers.

At social gatherings I have heard it said many times that social workers spend all day reading the Guardian, or get paid for poking their noses into people’s lives and we could easily manage without them. Weknow the reality, but the point is this, does the general public? One of the biggest problems social work has is getting the right message across to people who have negative views about the profession.

The answer to this problem of course is to take the doubters on at their own game by a rigorous PR and media campaign and getting the likes of the ubiquitous Max Clifford on board. As it stands, social work is like a boxer who keeps getting up after a nine-count for another dose of pummeling from the blue corner. I don’t care how laddish, thuggish or insensitive a white van man is; you take him on the beat with a social worker dealing with a daily dose of child protection and that will be enough to sway his views.

Elaine from London sums up the above link very well in her comment: “I am a voluntary breastfeeding peer counselor. The woman that coordinates the breastfeeding peer support in our area does magnificent & valued work in a very difficult job.” If one wanted to be cynical, one could argue how valuable to society are the writers of the tosh in the Times. But I’m no cynic.

The big bucks should stop here

Care assistant comforting elderly womanWatching Panorama’s expose of home care in the UK Britain’s Homecare Scandal I was not so much shocked as angry. It is hardly news that domicilliary home care providers are seemingly putting profits before people. Given that the raison d’etre of such companies is to make money (the city Hooray Henry with his red braces adhered to the bounties to be made in providing care) it is surely up to the local governments awarding these massive contracts to do something about the disgraceful standards to which some of these companies stoop. If I was paying around £2m for a service I would want to make sure I was getting bloody good value for money.

Of course, those on the shop floor earning the minimum wage plus a few pennies are not the cause of service users missing food, baths and medications; they are doing their best to manage in impossible situations. And it’s all well and good one director of social services telling the programme that they will not be renwing Care UK’s lucrative contract but the question was left hanging as to why she had not terminated the contract with the company immediately.

I think we should take a long hard look at whether private companies are actually able to meet the demands of caring for thousands of people following an on-line tendering process that resembled the Black Jack table at MGM Las Vegas. When I was a social worker these services were provided by LAs and yes, they were inefficiently run and staff were unionised and paid more but you know what, I never heard of vulnerable old people being left to rot in their own faeces.

Think about it; companies whose sole motivation is to make profits (and some of these companies also have a motivation to keep shareholders sweet) have little interest in providing the basic minimum to keep the inspectors happy. Are such companies really fit for such an important purpose of looking after our loved ones?

Using grandparents as cheap labour; is this what the govern-ment?

What do you do when there’s no-one around to look after the kids? Jackie Ashley has it spot on, you go to the grandparents.

Guardian: On grandparents, Whitehall is woefully old-fashioned

and we’re not talking babysitting in the short or mid-term. We’re talking caring for the grandchildren on a long-term basis. Having been involved with the Grandparents’ Association for a number of years I can show you evidence of hundreds of real-life stories of couples in their 50s, 60s and 70s who, for a range of reasons, are thrust into a second spell of parenting without guaranteed financial or emotional support.

Grandparent and grandchildCare is not a sexy vote-winner, particularly when the care is being carried out by people who may not be physically or emotionally in tune with modern youth culture. The government is happy to lean on grandparents – indeed there is almost an expectation that if an extended family is available, then they have a duty to undertake the care of grandchildren if the alternative option is for the child/ren to be taken into the care of the local authority. You never hear a word of complaint from the grandparents involved but Ashley hits the point home with this observation: “A parent, a foster parent, or someone looking after a disabled adult for 20 hours or more a week gets National Insurance credits. A grandparent doesn’t. This seems unfair, and mildly barmy. Grandparents get no flexible working help, or special leave. Parents can’t claim childcare tax credits for care by grandparents. Nine out of 10 grandparents do all the caring for free.”

Is this the kind of image of care the government really wants?

For more information on the Grandparents Association, please go to www.grandparents-association.org.uk

All the news that’s unfit to print

There are two things the UK media are obsessed with; s-e-x, and having a go at the care sector. Hence, no surprise that this ‘usual suspect’ appeared today in the Daily Mail:

‘Will anyone sleep with my Down’s syndrome son?’

The ubiquitous Daily Mail is clearly not a newspaper that lets the truth get in the way of a good story (the article describes Mencap as a ‘mental health’ charity which it is not – it is a charity that supports people with learning disabilities). And to pump up the volume of sales, this shabby piece of journalism is riddled with sensationalist references to s-e-x: “‘I’m on a mission to find a girlfriend/ My reason is I want to have sex/ There was Jackie – she was a sexy bird, she was gorgeous.”

Underneath these layers of the Daily Mail’s pulp fiction lies an issue that requires an educated debate; do people with learning disabilities have adequate opportunity to fulfill themselves emotionally and physically? Lucy Baxter’s approach to helping her adopted son Otto come to terms with these issues may be contentious but I admire the way she is using an icon of the 21st century (Bebo) to come to terms with a problem whose solution many people believe lies in the 19th century (asylums).

Of course, there is no reason why people with a learning disability should not be able to find a fulfilling relationship. But the Daily Mail’s knee-jerk approach to enlightening middle England is not the way to go about reporting or discussing it. There was a different way to deal with this ‘story’ and would you believe, that way involved not writing about it at all. Would there be a ‘story’ if a Daily Mail journalist had put an ad on an online dating agency looking for a partner? Would there be a ‘story’ if a group of Daily Male (sic) journalists went on a stag weekend of booze and prostitutes (yes, reader, that kind of behaviour has been associated with newsrooms)? Maybe the whole piece was part of a PR stunt by the BBC to get people to watch a programme which is being shown on Thursday about Lucy and Otto.

The answer of course is blowing in the wind of ‘for the public good’ of which the Daily Mail is the self-appointed leader of the pack. Mum Lucy and son Otto are getting on with their lives; we really don’t need to know if they, or the editor of the Daily Mail, choose to use Bebo for the intimate parts.

The man from the ministry of disinformation

Interesting article on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/12/lord-laming-baby-p

I’ve written before on the Care Images blog about Baby P and I think this Guardian piece by Andy Sawford is a tad ‘stating the obvious’, as in:
"At the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) we believe the key is to speed up the integration of children’s services so that children don’t fall through the cracks in the system. We must stop playing pass the parcel between agencies and instead make sure there is shared responsibility and clear decision-making, so that urgent interventions are made”.

Violence in the homeAll well and good, but people who abuse children are very savvy in getting round ‘shared responsibility’ and intercepting the parcels. Good practice in social work goes unreported and you can be sure that many thousands of children who would have suffered the same fate as Baby P are alive and well because of the skills and expertise of social workers. But in this kind of case, collective bad practice led to tragedy and the press lynch mob.

I’m getting tired of the platitudes and buzzwords spouted from ministers and public body representatives. They are mere puppets under the controls of media-training companies hired by local authorities and government agencies who need to quickly react to a crisis.

Mr Sawford believes the government have in some ways failed the social work profession. But nowhere in his piece does he explain how the profession let down Baby P. Maybe Mr Sawford needs to get better information from his interestingly named Local Government Information Unit.