Hot Issues

Have Social Workers Been Sold Down The River to the HPC?

Source  HCPC Watchdog


Before beginning to dissect the three and a half pages of text produced by the panel at yesterday’s hearing, I want to take time to consider the phrase ‘struck off’.

It is a little relic from the old days, which referred to the action of a man with a pen striking the name of another from a written register. It has the grandness of ritual written into it. ‘Struck off’ includes a gesture, a performance, and an audience. All this was necessary to invest the meaning of the phrase with the importance of the act and the magnitude of the misdemeanour perpetrated by the offender.

For those professions that have their roots in those old days, it is understandable that they keep the nomenclature, repeat the ritual, recite the words. It is a kind of homage paid to the pioneers who worked hard to establish a practice and who tried to set and maintain a standard. Without the work of these people who came before, it says, no-one would enjoy the fruits of this labour today.

Why, tho, is it within the language of the HPC?

The HPC is new, was brought into being by the Privy Council under New Labour, and is set up on the understanding that old professions are a danger to the public and must be transformed. Leaving aside for the moment the small detail that the HPC does not regulate the old professions, it is worth wondering why they would begin to dress themselves in this borrowed garb.

When the HPC first emerged onto the scene it did so with all appropriate marketing. Four posters from an early campaign are pinned to the wall on the way to the rooms of the hearing. Here is the text of their message:

1. A picture of a man dressed up as Dr McCoy from Star Trek on the Bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. The Headline: “You can trust me… I’m the real McCoy.” The small print: “Who can say if a health professional is genuine? The fact is that any genuine health professional must shortly be registered with the Health Professionals Council. The HPC is the statutory UK body appointed to regulate and maintain the standards of 12 health professions. To use one of the professional titles below, pretenders have until July 8th 2005 to meet our criteria. If they prove to be genuine, they can join over 150,000 professionals already on our register. Anything less and they’re on a different planet.”

Leaving aside the facile tone of this poster, I want simply to point out the argument that is being put to use. Before the 8th July 2005 the health professionals are pretenders, afterwards those accepted onto the register of the HPC are real.

2. A picture of a woman with a very very very long nose and rouged cheeks, looking a little like Pinocchio. The words on a poster behind her: “The Muscle Management Consultancy” The voice bubble: “professional titles? to tell you the truth they’re a thing of the past!” The small print: Who can say if a health professional is genuine? Sometimes letters after a name don’t prove anything. Anyone who is a genuine health professional with genuine qualifications must shortly be registered with the Health Professionals Council … after that telling lies becomes an offence.”

3. Picture of a woman in a spot light, wearing something in very large check. The speech bubble: “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be … a Health Professional!”. The Small Print: “Who can say if health professional is genuine. You don’t become qualified overnight. All genuine health professionals must shortly be registered with the Health Professions Council… after that they are acting beyond the law.”

4. Picture of a man in a white coat and a swimming hat standing in front of a wall of certificates. Speech bubble: “Fitness to Practise? I can show you hundreds of certificates.” He is holding up a certificate got from school days proclaiming him swimming champion 1978. The Small Print: “Some qualifications aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. All genuine health professionals must soon be registered with the health Professionals Council to prove their credentials. … All true professionals have until 8 July 2005 to become registered with us or lose the right to use titles listed below. Those that lie will be in deep water.


In this two-dimensional world there would appear to be only liars or truth tellers, fakers or real things, criminals or innocents, locals or aliens. Invisible in this simple scene is the One in charge of telling the difference, the One whose job it is to hold the scales and to decide. This is the HPC.

Is this a good time to ask: who, exactly, are these people, hidden just off screen?

Problem families: Case worker intervention ‘works’

Source – BBC News – © 2012 BBC

A government scheme aimed at turning around the lives of the most troubled families in England is said to have produced “life-changing” results.

Early intervention by a dedicated case worker has reduced crime among those people involved by 45%, says the head of the troubled families programme, Louise Casey.

Anti-social behaviour has gone down by 59%, her latest report suggests.

But the Social Research Unit charity said the programme was not a “panacea”.

The scheme aims to help 120,000 of the most troubled families by 2015.

It was announced a year ago, with central government funding of about £500m, and a further 60% of funding from councils.

Ms Casey published her report on Saturday, saying that cases of truancy, exclusion or bad behaviour at school were also cut by 52%.

She said that a case worker dedicated to the family was one of the key features identified as making the scheme effective.

Ms Casey told BBC Radio Five Live: “(We need) one worker for one family so they actually know who they’re working with and what actually needs to change in that family.

“A worker that’s honest and direct with them, so it’s not faffing around. It’s saying: right, kids do actually do have to go to school, I will be there at 7.30 until you get your kids up on you own and get them to school.

“[It’s about] showing people that have got terrible backgrounds themselves of care and abuse, who have had no love and no proper parenting themselves.

“[It’s about] teaching them to be parents and helping them bring their kids up properly,” she added.

‘Persistent challenge’

Considering the family as a whole, giving “practical ‘hands on’ support” and taking an “assertive” approach were also key.

So-called training academies for local authorities will be organised by the Department for Communities and Local Government next year, where best practice for intervention will be taught.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

We think that it’s positive but we don’t necessarily think that it’s a panacea”

Sonia Sodha, Social Research Unit charity

More than 40,000 families are expected to be helped in this financial year.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the report was a “crucial step towards building a wide campaign of support behind the work we are doing to break an inter-generational cycle of misery and failure”.

But Sonia Sodha, from the Social Research Unit charity, said: “Any investment in families with multiple issues is to be welcomed, but we would urge a bit more caution on this.

“The government seems to see it as a panacea policy for troubled families. We think that it’s positive but we don’t necessarily think that it’s a panacea.”

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of the group 4Children which runs Sure Start children’s centres , said: “Troubled families need to receive co-ordinated practical support, assistance and advice from services in order to help them solve their problems and get their lives back on track.

“By helping parents to find employment and get their children back into school, the impact will also be felt by wider society.”

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of charity Action for Children which helps vulnerable young people, meanwhile, urged local councils to avoid providing support for families “on the cheap”.

“You get out what you put in,” she told the BBC News channel.

“We, and a number of other organisations, provide very high quality support and it really does make a difference,” she said.

“It avoids children being taken into care and families spiralling into something that really is avoidable.

Troubled families tsar: figures show high-intensity intervention works

Under Louise Casey’s high-intensity intervention approach, an individual caseworker ‘willing to walk in the shoes of the family’ is dedicated to a household. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

  • By Patrick Wintour The Guardian,

Louise Casey, the head of the government’s troubled families programme, is to publish figures claiming her brand of high intensity intervention by a single caseworker has reduced antisocial behaviour by 59%, involvement in crime by 45%, and bad behaviour at school including expulsions by 52%.

The figures to be published on Saturday are based on an evaluation of her programmes from 2007 to 2012 by the government funded National Centre for Social Research, and Casey is using the results to urge local authorities to follow the style of intensive intervention she believes works best.

The figures, likely to be challenged by some social scientists, are especially remarkable since the projects are dealing with some of the most intractable social problems in Britain.

All 152 local authorities in England have since April this year agreed to take part in the troubled families programme, with the government over three years contributing £4,000 per family, about 40% of the total costs of action needed to turn a family around.

The troubled families programme is one of the few social interventions started by Tony Blair, and pursued by Gordon Brown, that the coalition government has been willing to adopt, even if communities secretary Eric Pickles has put his own mark on it by asking councils to run the schemes on the basis of payment by results.

Critics also claim that the funding is inadequate for a programme that is supposed to cover 120,000 troubled families in England over three years, including 40,000 this year.

Other reported percentage reductions in family problems between entry and exit from the project include: child protection issues (36%), poor parenting (49%) relationship/family breakdown (47%), domestic violence (57%), drug misuse (39%), alcohol misuse (47%), mental health issues (24%), and employment/training problems (14%).

The department of communities and local government claims: “The consistency of these reductions … over the five years that these services were operating nationally, is particularly striking. It suggests that scaling-up the delivery of these services nationally did not result in any reductions in their effectiveness.”

The fresh figures on the effectiveness of the programme come from a survey of nearly 5,500 families, but due to difficulties in estimating the impact on families if they had not been on the programme, the numbers are not being classed as official government statistics.

Casey is urging councils on the basis of these numbers to adopt the key components of what has worked in the past – an individual caseworker dedicated to a household “willing to walk in the shoes of the family”; practical hands on support; a persistent, assertive and challenging approach; looking at the family as a whole; and finally common purpose and agreed action between the family and the caseworker.

Casey concedes her approach is not easy. “Having that difficult conversation with a mother that challenges her to understand that it’s her own violent behaviour that her children are replicating in the school playground, or challenging the father that the council won’t repair his leaking roof because he won’t clear the rubbish to let them in, or telling the teenage son that the reason he feels ‘disrespected’ by the neighbours is because he swears at them and throws rubbish into their garden – none of that is easy. To challenge that, to keep the family’s trust and then to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in to offer practical help – that’s the huge skill of the family intervention worker.”






Destruction of Social Work


Source: Guardian
David Cameron prepares vegetables at the Windmill community centre in Smethwick, Birmingham where he was promoting his plan to create a national network of troubleshooters. Photograph: Reuters


The prime minister’s vision for stabilising the lives of the country’s 120,000 “most troubled families” is now backed by nearly £450m of cash. But that sum is not likely to be enough while local authority budgets are shrinking and demands are growing, experts have said.

While the fund appears large it represents a small fraction of the cost of working with troubled families. According to Westminster’s council, which has been running targeted and intensive family projects for years, a “successful intervention” with a family beset by multiple problems, such as drug abuse, poor mental health and domestic violence, costs £20,000.

To get the £450m from Whitehall, local authorities will have to find £675m over the next three years from council budgets, which are already being slashed by 9%.

If all the cash from councils was used to pay for services then only 34,000 – about a third of the country’s 120,000 families – would be helped.

The Institute of Public Policy Research argues that “there is still a big question mark over whether the funding will be enough”.

Enver Solomon, of the Children‘s Society, was more blunt. “Local authorities don’t have the cash and they often don’t have the skills to do this work”.

Geoff Skinner, who until this summer was Westminster’s director of children’s services, says that getting social workers, police, doctors and housing associations to work closely together at a time of cuts would be very hard.

He said: “Every department involved costs extra money. That includes schools, GPs, police. Now some of them are seeing budgets cuts. So, for example, the police cuts mean the Met’s safer neighbourhoods strategy is being lost. That was invaluable intelligence on these families. Now it’s gone”.

Ministers claim that by hiring a “family champion” councils will be able to streamline the process and reduce costs. The government envisages an army of case workers each chivvying and chasing families up – being involved in getting children to school or pacifying neighbours disturbed by anti-social behaviour, for example.

Case workers are not cheap. Westminster hired six in that role and each cost £40,000 a year. At that wage, the government’s £448m would pay for 11,000 family champions – just one for every 10 troubled families.

Beyond the cost, the creation of a surveillance society might be an unintended consequence of the programme’s noble aims.

Rhian Beynon, of Family Action, said: “The government’s system only works if everything is measured, because people only get paid by results. But it’s getting to be an issue. Under this scheme we have four of five things to measure to prove we are making a difference. Things like improving attendance rates at school. In children’s centres there are 10 things to measure.

“For the NHS we need to look at 60 things. Every local authority we work with wants a different set of things to be measured. And all this to get paid. Evaluation is getting very expensive.”

However, David Simmonds, chair of Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said such fears were misplaced. “We are not looking to do this is in a bureaucratic way. Things are tight, but the challenge is to do this without a substantial injection of new money.”