None of us could have failed to have been moved last month as a verdict was reached in the Philpott trial where six children tragically lost their lives as a result of arson committed by Mick and Mairead Philpott, and friend Paul Mosley. BASW’s media team were besieged by requests and it was frustrating to see the real issues at stake hijacked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and some sections of the media as the debate descended into a row about families on welfare benefits. Important factors that have emerged in this case are Mick Philpott’s history of violence, including a seven year prison sentence for the attempted murder of a former partner as well as the treatment he meted out to his wife and mistress.
It is chilling to think that Jeremy Kyle paraded this man in front of a studio audience to satisfy the exigencies of reality television, with all the usual finger wagging and head shaking the presenter is so well known for. Domestic violence is no laughing matter but a psychologist and people who knew Mick Philpott commented publicly on how this appearance and subsequent claim to fame merely boosted an ego already dominated by a narcissistic personality. BASW will be watching this space closely when the findings of the serious case review emerge as there is, we suspect, a lot more to come.
‘Failing’ local authorities
Sue Kent and Nushra Mansuri hosted a debate with members of the Children and Families Reference Group about the latest events in Doncaster given its recent poor Ofsted report on the back of the Edlington serious case review. Education secretary Michael Gove has ordered an independent review to be conducted by Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics, which will ultimately decide the service’s fate – he is expected to report on the findings this month. We will read his findings with interest but are very keen to proffer a social work led solution.
This was swiftly followed by media interest in another local authority, Sandwell, which also fell foul of Ofsted, resulting in the resignations of the Director of Children’s Services and lead cabinet member. Many reference group members shared their experience of practice on the ground and how the situation is not getting any better in the currently challenging climate.
Describing an increasingly fraught and ever more punitive environment, they also told us that it was difficult for individuals to grasp what was happening nationally as local pressures of job insecurity and uncertain futures meant that they were not able to put their heads above the parapet – basic survival comes first. It is certainly a worrying picture and we would be interested to hear from other BASW members working in England about your current experiences. Perhaps they differ widely or sadly do not.
The new statutory safeguarding guidance was finally published just before Easter but hardly with a fanfare of trumpets so members could be forgiven for missing it. The guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, previously contained in Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 (2007) has now been superseded by Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013), which came into effect on 15 April 2013.
Important survey results – ASYE and Mental Health
The England team has now collated and analysed the results of two member surveys; one is about the experience of BASW members regarding the Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE) and the other is drawn from the experience of members working in mental health services – specifically how they integrate with health colleagues.
The ASYE survey confirmed some of the anecdotal evidence previously received by the team in that a) there is a lot of confusion about ASYE and b) there is a lack of knowledge about how it operates. Many members were not aware that you do not have to be working in a post with the title ‘social worker’ to undertake ASYE and others were confused as to whether it was compulsory or not. There were some really useful questions raised by the survey, which need sharing, so a Q&A has been produced and can be found here on the BASW website.
A full report of the findings is available online too and BASW staff are in discussions with Skills for Care and the Department for Education about the role that we can play in informing people about the programme. There will be a social care Twitter debate on 28 May at 7.00 pm to discuss the subject further. Please join us at http://swscmedia.wordpress.com/
The survey about the integration of services in mental health social work yielded some really useful information about what is happening in this sector (see BASW news on 27 March). The survey captured information from those who work in multi-disciplinary teams and those who have been relocated back to social services departments. Of those no longer in MDTs, 70% said they believe there is an increased likelihood of a serious incident or crisis affecting service users as a result of the break-up of multi-disciplinary working.
Nine out of ten said they believe that integrating services at one location benefited service users. Six out of ten said it reduces the likelihood of serious incidents occurring. However, some people who had been relocated to social service departments felt that there had been advantages in this for them, including improved services for people and better role identity for them. The report is being taken to the Department for Health and a high level inter-disciplinary forum.
SWAN conference report
Ruth Cartwright attended the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) Conference in London and met plenty of BASW members there. Much indignation and sorrow was expressed about the plight of some of our service users who are being adversely affected by the recent raft of benefit changes. As social workers we should try and make sure our service users are receiving what they are entitled to in terms of benefits and opportunities to develop their capacity to work if this is appropriate.
We may be able to help families with disabled members make their case for exemptions to some of the housing benefit changes, for example. If people have to leave adapted accommodation for new rented housing with fewer bedrooms, it could cost local authorities a lot of money to install new adaptations, and it may be worth bringing this to the attention of managers.
Something else that came out very strongly from the conference was the need for us to stand together – to stand together as social workers with colleagues and with service users. We may not always agree on everything, but we all know there are certain core values in social work around respect, dignity, fairness and justice in the way we treat service users and in the way we are treated too. There must be no hint of divide and rule and we should take every opportunity to work together and to speak together on issues that affect us and our service users.
Opportunity to shine
We are pleased to have filled one of the vacant positions on the England Committee but still have one remaining. If you are interested, please contact Sharon Hodgson and she will send you information and a nomination form for you to be considered at the BASW England Annual Meeting following our conference on 16 May. The England Committee carries a great deal of weight within BASW and grapples with national policy as well as other activities. Applications from all members are welcome – whether you are just starting out or have a number of years of experience. This is an exciting opportunity to lend your voice to the debate.