I know I said at the end of my last blog I would complete the story of my Scottish trip, however is all happening in the health and social care spectrum in the UK at the moment and it would be remiss of me not to comment on some of them.
Firstly I would like to mention the Undercover Social Worker programme on Channel Four last night, which seems to have raised a lot of issues that many of us have been aware for some time.
Sadly social workers are gatekeepers these days. Its demoralising for all involved. Most social workers go into the job because they want to help people, but all they can do most of the time is assessments and forms and reports then tell people they can't have what they need because the bean-counters refuse the funding, which then becomes demoralising for the people who need the help. People come into contact with Social Services because there are problems so to then be assessed and to be told what you need doesn't meet funding criteria is extremely distressing, but its not those that refuse the resources that have to pass on this news, it is the poor hapless social worker who then becomes the scurge of the person who has been refused services.
The result of this is numerous Social Workers on long term sick leave, skilled people leaving the profession; which in turn leads to staff shortages and those remaining being over-worked, stressed and demoralised, which in turn has an detrimental effect on the standard of service received by people in need.
In a bid to resolve this you get cases such as those demonstrated on last night's programme where you have inexperienced and sometimes unqualified staff making assessments on people with the best of intentions but being terrified of making wrong decisions. How can we have confidence in our social workers when they don't have confidence in themselves?
The role of the social worker has been stigmatised to point where it amazes me that anybody would want to do that job now. From the media who report on social service failings, to society who access the media and make their own judgements where the social workers are at fault, to the bean counters who blame the socal workers for unsuccessful funding bids to access services for people in need, which in the end is down to a lack of resources rather than anybody's mistake, but it is always the social worker's fault.
I hope this programme will have the effect of realisation that a social workers position can be impossible at times (no consolation to those missing out on services I know) but by always blaming the social worker you are often 'kicking the wrong cat' and all that produces is stigmatising the profession, people leaving and arguably worse, putting off potential new social workers. If the situation continues as it is I fear there will be a real crisis in the next 10-15 years where there will be a catastrophic shortage of social workers.
The final thiing I woul like to raise (and not unconnected to my first point) is the new government's public consultation on the 'painful cuts' that have to be made to our public spending.
Although I cautiously welcome this public consultation, I have great concerns that those in the greatest need will not be heard. As the name of my blog might demonstrate, I work with people with disabilities (as well as being a disabled person myself). There is a long history of disabled people being at the bottom of the list when things like this are concerned. An obvious case in point is the The Disability Discrimination being introduced in 1995, 20 years later than its brother and sister The Sex Discrimination Act and The Race Relations Act of 1975 and 1976 respectively.
So I ask myself how accessible to people with disabilities will this public consultation be? Will papers be available in Easyread and/or braille (although not many blind or partially sighted people are braille readers). Will television reports be subtitled for those who are hard of hearing, unlike some of the pre election Leaders debates? These are the people who are most likely to be overlooked, or possibly worse have well meanng people decide their opinions for them.
The only way to avoid this is for the government to consult with the charities that have direct contact with disabled people. And I don't necessarily mean the larger charities who on occasions have their own political agenda and have therefore become detached from the people they are meant to be serving. I mean the local advocacy groups and what used to be the local Coalitions of Disabled People.
This is the only way anything resembling true public consultation can take place includng those that may be the most adversely affected by the inevitable cuts.