Notes from the #MindAwards

Yesterday evening, I found myself at the Mind Media Awards 2011 in London. Pandora, the author of Confessions of a Serial Insomniac, had been nominated for the Mark Hanson New Media Award, and had kindly invited me along as one of her guests.  Hence Pandora, her partner A and I were sat in the audience as Mind honoured positive portrayals of mental health issues in the media.

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CQC – the insiders’ views

The Inquiry into the failings in the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has been going on for a while now but yesterday there was some hefty evidence from two CQC (Care Quality Commission) ‘insiders’ which blasted open the so-called regulator and lifted the lid on the poor practice that some of us have suspected for a while.

I would urge anyone in health and social care who serves are regulated by this body, take a look at some of the evidence presented yesterday. I did and I hate to say that I wasn’t surprised but let’s just say it confirmed some of my suspicions.

The two witnesses who provided the evidence were Amanda Pollard – an inspector with the CQC and Kay Sheldon – a non-executive director at the CQC.

I want to look at some of the statements that they made in the hope that these issues are picked up on by a wider audience.  Both Amanda Pollard and Kay Sheldon are ‘whistleblowers’ in the finest tradition and should be heartily applauded for the stance they have taken. Continue reading

Should Social Workers go on Strike?

Before I start, I know that this is a subject that can be tricky. Striking is a personal decision and I respect those who make the decision either to strike or not strike. I will be on strike on Wednesday. I will be standing at a picket line and going to a rally – but I will not, and never will criticise any of my colleagues who take a different decision to me and will not engage in name-calling.

For me, I strike reluctantly and with a heavy heart. I became a social worker because I wanted to work with people and use the skills I can muster to advocate for the people I work with in the ‘systems’ that all too often conspire against them. I don’t want to leave my work behind and down sticks. I enjoy my work and in times such as these when our team is pushed in ways we have never been before due to capacity issues and understaffing, it has been a particularly difficult pill to swallow.

Yes, I am a frontline practitioner. Yes, service users will notice that I am out of the office for a day and not contactable. Will my colleagues deal with emergencies? Yes. That makes me feel worse not better. The union do ‘exempt’ people in the essential roles – we have some AMHPs rota’ed to work through the strike and safeguarding work will continue with duty workers – but ultimately I feel the right to strike is a strong one and if I don’t advocate for myself, how can I, in all honesty, advocate for others effectively. Continue reading

Daily Mail Autism Sweepstake

And so the Daily Mail continues its mission to troll the entire nation…Today, they ask,

Is the changing role of women in our society behind the rise in autism in the past 30 years?

Oh well, I suppose it makes a change from vaccines.

There then follows what looks to me like a pretty flagrant misreading of a theory by Simon Baron-Cohen. The Mail’s idea is that brainy men are marrying other brainy women instead of some pretty simpering girl, and because brainy = autism, they’re producing autistic babies.  If that  sounds completely ridiculous to you, then you’ve understood it perfectly.

So, let’s have a sweepstake. What will the Daily Mail announce as the cause of autism next? The BBC? Irish travellers? People who live in Islington? Give your suggestions in the comments thread. Whoever predicts the right answer (or alternatively, whoever comes up with the funniest answer) will be declared the winner.


Close to Home – Reporting on Home Care in England

Quality home care provision in England is still an aspiration into the second decade of the 21st century. That’s the thrust of the ‘Close to Home’ report published today after a year-long inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Frankly, that’s not a good place to be  but we seem to be moving backwards instead of forwards in terms of promoting quality care which adheres to human rights considerations. How have we, as a nation, found ourselves here? The report offers some insights and I’d say it is a vital read for anyone working in the sector or with an interest in the sector and the role that finances and private sector provision have on social care.

I read through the full report this morning and while being constrained by work commitments mean I can’t devote as much time as I’d like to analysis, I do want to pick up a few key points.

The introduction starts with a background and context of the inquiry explaining how the intended (or perhaps not) legal ‘safety net’ of the Human Rights Act (1998) does not cover home care agencies in way it did at the time that legislation was introduced.

Obviously being a long report, I just want to concentrate on a few issues.

Choice and Control – or where is this so-called ‘personalisation’ agenda?
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Crisis in Mental Health Care

Crisis Care in Mental Health – both community and inpatient –  is inconsistent and increasingly unable to deliver quality services.  Mind published a report today following an independent inquiry which they have carried out called ‘Listening to Experience’. This inquiry looked at evidence from 400 patients, professionals and providers and was intended to provide a qualitative shapshot of care in England.

While the press release points out that some outstandingly good levels of care were reported, it is useful to note some of the main points of criticism that were raised.

When looking at some of the examples cited in the statement from Mind, it’s hard to separate these issues from the agenda of cuts that is currently underway in public services and despite the government’s vehement denial that this is not going to lead to reductions in clinical staff, all I can say is that on the ground, I see it happening with my own eyes.

We have, and this is personal experience, wards closing, staff with redundancy hanging over them, downgrading of professionals and replacing qualified staff with unqualified staff. These are not management posts. These are all clinical posts. Staff remaining are pushed further and yes, eligibility is rising and service delivery is reaching a smaller group of people.
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Adoption Is Not Meant To Be Simple

Following National Adoption Week, the movement for change is gathering momentum. Yet following last week’s debate in parliament, I retain my doubts about the direction of travel.

Members from all sides praised the efforts of adopters and for that matter foster carers too. There was cross-party agreement that there were no straightforward answers because the system unavoidably meshes different organisations and professions, such as the court and social services, and to be fair there was little direct criticism of social workers themselves and acknowledgement that they themselves are frustrated with delays in the system.

Speakers from all parties took their cue from the Prime Minister’s comments during questions at the beginning of NAW:

“the Government pledge that we will make the process of adoption and fostering simpler. It has become too bureaucratic and difficult, and the result is that it is putting people off.”
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