Social Work

Professional body for social workers set up after Baby P scandal to close due to lack of funds

College of Social Work



Written by The Independent:


A professional body for social workers set up three years ago by the Government in the wake of the Baby P scandal is due to close because of a lack of funds.


The College of Social work will close after ministers pulled the plug on funding that would have kept it going. Its chief executive, Annie Hudson, told The Independent: “We’re shocked and saddened that this decision has been made because it’s very important for social work that there’s a strong professional college.”


The College was set up in 2012 with £5m in government seed funding. The independent body was one of the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force established after the high profile death of baby Peter Connelly in 2008 and was designed to raise standards in the beleaguered profession.


Its closure has partly come about because of its failure to attract enough members. The College’s target was to have 31,000 fee-paying members by 2015 but in April it had just 16,471. This meant they relied heavily on central Government funding to continue.


The decision follows a review that the College took of its business model with the Department of Health and Department for Education. The College had proposed taking on additional roles, such as post-qualifying training, as other professional bodies too. That would have helped secure the necessary funding to continue.

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Jo Cleary, chair of the college, told Community Care: ”I’m devastated with the government’s decision about the future of The College of Social Work. This is a very dark day for social work and for the people that social workers support.


“There has never been a more critical time for social work to be a well-regarded and well-respected profession. The College is very proud of what it has achieved over its very short life.”


A Government spokesman said: “Good social workers can transform the lives of families and individuals in vulnerable circumstances. That is why we are committed to improving the quality of social work, investing over £100m a year to improve the status of the profession and boost the recruitment and retention of experienced social workers, and have invested in driving up quality in frontline social work. We have also set high standards for the profession and are backing quality training and development and new teaching partnerships to improve practice.


“It was always the objective of the College to become financially self-sufficient and independent from government. The decision to stop funding the College has not been taken lightly and follows years of Government backing to establish the College and help it become an important advocate in raising the status and standards of the profession.


“Since its inception in 2009, we have supported the College with over £8m to establish it as an independent organisation. We have also invested £100m through the Innovation Programme to kick-start new approaches to support vulnerable children and families. We will continue to work closely with the Chief Social Workers and the profession to champion and improve the social work profession sector.”

Norfolk ‘paedophile ring’ case: Police ‘investigating social workers’

Source – BBC News


Police have been investigating the conduct of social workers involved in the case of an alleged paedophile ring, a court has heard.


Six women and four men deny playing any part in the sexual abuse in Norfolk.


The abuse is said to have been carried out against two boys and three girls in and around Norwich and London.


Norwich Crown Court was told two social workers working for Norfolk County Council were alleged to have “tidied up” documents.


Prosecutor Angela Rafferty QC told the court the children were “sexually and physically abused and neglected… in the early parts of their lives”.


Marie Black, 34, from Norwich, denies 26 offences, including four counts of rape and two of conspiracy to rape.


She also denies charges including neglect and ill-treatment, sexually assaulting children under 13, conspiracy to cause children to watch sexual acts and causing child pornography.


Nine others are accused of offences including rape, child cruelty, causing children under 13 to engage in sexual activity and sexual assault.


They are Michael Rogers, 53, from Romford; and Jason Adams, 43, Carol Stadler, 59, Anthony Stadler, 63, Nicola Collins, 36, Andrew Collins, 52, Judith Fuller, 31, Denise Barnes, 43, and Kathleen Adams, 84, all from Norwich.


All deny all charges, except Mr Adams, who admits four of five child cruelty charges against him.

Social work in Greece: ‘I haven’t been paid for nine months’

Source: The Guardian

09 Apr 2014, Athens, Attica, Greece --- Athens, Greece. 9th April 2014 -- Protesters anti-government slogans. -- Greek unions launched an anti-austerity general strike that halted train and island ferry services while disrupting state hospitals and other public services. Thousands of protesters marched through central Athens in the first of two planned demos. --- Image by © Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Demotix/Corbis

09 Apr 2014, Athens, Attica, Greece — Athens, Greece. 9th April 2014 — Protesters anti-government slogans. — Greek unions launched an anti-austerity general strike that halted train and island ferry services while disrupting state hospitals and other public services. Thousands of protesters marched through central Athens in the first of two planned demos. — Image by © Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Demotix/Corbis


Yiannis greeted me at the entrance of the drop-in centre for homeless people in Athens, Greece. You could sense that there was a time when he would have been considered a good-looking man, but now his hair hung in un-kept strands and his clothes, while clean, were ill-fitting and crumpled. He spoke English reluctantly but thoughtfully, pausing while he searched for the right word.

Yiannis acted as my guide, showing me around the centre. “Anyone can come here. All you need is a need. No papers – it’s okay, no ID,” he explained. “We have only one rule in this building.” He raised his thumb and two fingers to his nose. “It must smell like a home.”


We walked from one room to the next, meeting other members of the community and applying the sniff test as he told me his story. A lifetime ago he was a construction worker in Athens, but in 2009 everything stopped. “One minute you went to work, and then … nothing.”


Before the financial crisis, which saw unemployment rise to 28%, Yiannis dreamed of sending his two daughters to university. They lived in an apartment that he had refurbished. His wife worked part-time in a café and together they nearly earned €900 (£652) a month, enough to live on.


The first sign of trouble was having the electricity cut off when they could not pay the €200 the company wanted. Later, when they were evicted from their apartment, they moved to the home of his wife’s parents in another province. His family of four slept in the lounge, but not being able to provide for them was too much. “I thought everyday I will have a heart attack, no sleep, I wasn’t so nice to be around,” he said.


Yiannis left his family and went back to the capital in search of work. He slept next to a bookshop because there was lighting that made him feel safe, and looked through rubbish bins for food. “An old friend walked past and looked right at me but didn’t recognise [me],” he said. “Thank God. I would rather be dead.”


After saying that he would be delighted to show me around the centre any time, Yiannis introduced me to one of the social workers, Christina, a woman in her late 30s, with perhaps 15 years of post-graduation practice behind her. She told me that she had worked in both the public and NGO sectors and liked this agency. “I can just be a social worker,” she said. “I don’t have to justify social work to my managers because they understand it.”


I asked for an example of what that meant. “This is a community of people, not a day centre for the homeless,”she replied. “Everybody’s dignity and humanity is safe in here.”


The centre runs entirely on donations from those less aversely affected by the financial crash. There is a community pharmacy, where they collect medications that people don’t need anymore, and a small examination room staffed by a volunteer doctor.


Greeks and migrants that have no papers or fixed address cannot access healthcare. Since government austerity began, the poorest people in Greece have lost 86% of their income, causing widespread social insecurity. There has been a sharp rise in men carrying out suicide, often because there is no work and they cannot provide for their families. Social spending has been dramatically reduced in both the private and public sectors.


As a result, grassroots organisations made up of social workers, neighbourhood committees, students and social movements have created organic networks of social solidarity that support people who do not have access to the shrinking welfare services. In addition to projects like the centre, social workers and community members voice their concerns by peaceful protest and have created an environment of solidarity and hope for the future.

As I was leaving the centre, I asked Christina if her pay had been cut. Her expression changed. “I haven’t been paid for nine months,” she said. I tried to reconcile how she had conducted herself with such professionalism and commitment in an agency that had not paid her wages. I asked how she had survived. “My husband and two children, we are all staying with relatives and our food comes from the Red Cross,” she said.


I asked what it was like working in a centre for the homeless without a permanent home herself. “It’s not always easy. I have to keep my family’s needs out of here so that I can stay focused on my social work role,” she said.


The most worrying thing is that Yannis and Christina’s experiences are normal. Christina has helped Yannis to re-establish contact with his family and they are again living together in an over-crowded house without electricity. He is now helping many others who have found themselves homeless and without food. Many middle class professionals like Christina have tumbled into poverty and insecurity. Their bonds and informal networks have kept them alive but these are wearing thinner, and after six years of austerity everyone is wondering how much longer they can continue.

Nottinghamshire social workers’ caseload ‘too high’

Source – BBC News


The caseload of Nottinghamshire social workers has left it impossible for them to do the job safely, an expert claims.


Newly released figures showed that last year social workers in the county dealt with an average of 23 cases at any one time. The English average was 16.


Ex-social worker Ailsa Pearce said it was impossible to do the job safely with that number of cases.


County Hall said it had been recruiting staff and the average caseload figure was 13 this week.


The government recently compiled the figures, revealing that across the East Midlands the average caseload is higher than anywhere else in England and higher still in Nottinghamshire.

‘Relentlessly flat out’


Ms Pearce was an experienced senior social worker who left the county council because of the pressure of the job.


She said social work standards in Nottinghamshire remained “very high”.


“[But] the quality of overall social work has to be affected when you are working relentlessly flat out with very, very stressful cases and very, very difficult circumstances,” she said.


“Some social workers had 35 children on their case load and one person had 42.”


Nushra Mansuri from the British Association of Social Workers, said the figures were “worrying”, pointing out that each case could include a family of several youngsters.


Because of cuts, she said, it also meant only the most serious of cases are dealt with.

‘They are manageable’


“Children’s services should not be crisis driven,” Ms Mansuri explained.


“There needs to be proper investment… financial investment, but also investment in support services.”


Steve Edwards, the county council’s service director for children’s social care, said that this week the average caseload was 13, but admitted it could be much higher.


“That doesn’t mean social workers always have caseloads of 13, they don’t. [But] they don’t have caseloads of 35 or 40 plus, generally that wouldn’t happen.


“On average, caseloads in Nottinghamshire are between 14 and the low 20s, so they are manageable.”


He added the council had invested in and recruited staff who do an “excellent job keeping children safe”.

Meet Sam Tsemberis, the outsider who is solving chronic homelessness across America

Written by The Independent:




The process of innovation is often one of mystery. Where does an idea come from? How do innovators find it? What makes them different from everyone else fumbling around in the dark?


Compounding the puzzle is the irony that those most likely to innovate are rarely the experts. They’re outsiders who see things freshly.


And so, on a recent morning, one such outsider picks his way down a sun-splashed Brookland street. Face patched in scruff, wiry frame crammed into a Patagonia jacket, he doesn’t at first seem like an innovator who has had national impact. But few thinkers today are in greater demand


Meet Sam Tsemberis. According to academics and advocates, he’s all but solved chronic homelessness. His research, which commands the support of most scholars, has inspired policies across the nation, as well as in the District. The results have been staggering. Late last month, Utah, the latest laboratory for Tsemberis’s’s models, reported it has nearly eradicated chronic homelessness. Phoenix, an earlier test case, eliminated chronic homelessness among veterans. Then New Orleans housed every homeless veteran.


Homelessness has long seemed one of the most intractable of social problems. For decades, the number of homeless from New York City to San Francisco surged — and so did the costs. At one point around the turn of the millennium, New York was spending an annual $40,500 on every homeless person with mental issues. Then came Tsemberis, who around that same time unfurled a model so simple children could grasp it, so cost-effective fiscal hawks loved it, so socially progressive liberals praised it.


And now, here he is again, peering up at another brick building on another urban street in another city that’s dabbling with his models. “This building,” he declares of the Irving Street structure, “is great.”


He pauses for a moment, eyes flashing.


“See that sign over there? It says, ‘Now Leasing.’ That’s what we look for.”


It’s that simple, he said. Give homes for the homeless, and you will solve chronic homelessness.


To the uninitiated, this may sound strange. Not because it doesn’t make sense. But because it’s so simple that to call it innovation would seem an insult to the likes of Thomas Edison. To think that, however, would underestimate how utterly radical Tsemberis’s proposition — give homes to addicts and drunks and schizophrenics without preconditions — once seemed. And still kind of does.


The truth is, we thought the earth was flat,” said Richard Bebout, a Washington scholar of homelessness who was once critical of Tsemberis’s work. “But here he was saying the earth is round, and we said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”


Homeless services once worked like a reward system. Kick an addiction, get a home. Take some medication, get counseling. But Tsemberis’s model, called “housing first,” said the order was backward. Someone has the best chance of improving if they’re stabilized in a home.


It works like this: First, prioritize the chronically homeless, defined as those with mental or physical disabilities who are homeless for longer than a year or have experienced four episodes within three years. They’re the most difficult homeless to reabsorb into society and rack up the most significant public costs in hospital stays, jail sentences and shelter visits.


Then give them a home, no questions asked. Immediately afterward, provide counseling, a step research shows is the most vital. Give them final say in everything — where they live, what they own, how often they’re counseled.

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“People thought this was crazy,” said Tsemberis, who today runs Pathways to Housing. “They said, ‘You mean even when someone relapses and sells all the furniture you gave them … [to pay for] drugs, you don’t kick them out?’ And I said, ‘No, we do not.’”


Born in Greece and raised in Montreal, Tsemberis was never trained in how to treat the homeless. He repeats this point often. “I’m a psychologist,” he said. “I’m a clinician.”


And so, it perhaps came as a surprise when, in the early nineties, he took a job in New York City doing outreach for the mentally ill, which brought him into close contact with the homeless. He soon sank into their hidden world, noting the complexity of its social rules and survival tactics. How some experts perceived homelessness, he said he realized, was fundamentally flawed. This world’s denizens, in fact, were profoundly resourceful.


“We were equating the severity of diagnosis with ability to function,” he said. “But surviving in homelessness is labor intensive, exhausting and complicated. It calls for a skill set of functionality.”


Tsemberis’s task was to find the homeless, bring them in for help — sometimes against their will — and medicate them. “But I would see 30 percent of those people over and over and over again,” Tsemberis said. “We knew them by name and location and habit. We knew all of them.”
There was need of a change. So he assembled a very small, very unusual team. None of them had any training in homelessness. They, too, were outsiders. One was a recovering heroin addict. Another was a formerly homeless person. Another was a psychologist. And the last, Hilary Melton, was a poet and a survivor of incest.


“We were people who weren’t that far removed from the people we were serving,” recalled Melton, who runs Pathways Vermont. And so, over long conversations, they fashioned the rough contours of what would become housing first. “This was totally off the walls radical,” Melton said. “I remember the moment we took someone’s shopping carts in right off the streets and through the front door of an apartment, and left them there. It felt like Christmas morning.”


Tsemberis soon received $500,000 in federal funding, which he used to track what happened to 139 chronically homeless people who were immediately housed and offered counseling. In 1997, the results arrived. The small team couldn’t believe it. It showed a retention rate of nearly 85 percent. The next best model’s retention rate? Sixty percent.


Word spread. Tsemberis published another paper in 2000, this time in the respected Psychiatric Services, which ignited fierce debate in the homeless services community. Some loved it. Others thought Tsemberis was, if anything, naive.


Bebout, the Washington homelessness expert who now leads Green Door, a mental-health center, couldn’t understand why Tsemberis cared so much about housing aesthetics. Isn’t most important to just find a house, any house? “I said, ‘We’re not in the business of running pretty houses,’” remembered Bebout, who today is a fierce proponent of housing first. “The whole thing sounded nutty to us at the time. … But the data became so overwhelming.”

Jerome Jackson spent two decades on the streets struggling with mental illness before he heard about housing first (Terrence McCoy)

Success begat success. Several years later, the federal government tested the model on 734 homeless across 11 cities, finding the model dramatically reduced levels of addiction as well as shrank health related costs by half. “Adults who have experienced chronic homelessness may be successfully housed and can maintain their housing,” the report declared.


Around that time, the District got into the game. Between 2008 and 2010, the city added more than 1,200 units for the chronically homeless. One case study, which tracked 36 participants, showed 84 percent retention over two years. But then, the number of added homes plummeted. In 2012, only 121 units were added, and the District is still home to more than 1,700 chronically homeless, though Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new budget has since made the program a larger priority.


That inconsistency, Tsemberis and other experts say, can devastate the program. “We committed,” said Utah’s Gordon Walker, explaining how his state succeeded at eliminating homelessness — and saved millions. “It was costing us in state services, health-care costs, jail time, police time, about $20,000 per person. Now, we spend $12,000 per person.”


Still, in the District, stories of success poke through. Take Jerome Jackson. A drug addict with schizophrenia, he lived two decades on the streets. Then he heard about housing first. He wondered if the stories were true.


“They said they could find me a place fast; they told me not to worry,” Jackson said, at first alarmed that his addictions would exclude him from services. But they didn’t. “And lo and behold, they were right. I had a place in three months, and haven’t been homeless since.”

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation

Written by LGA


Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a terrible crime with destructive and far reaching consequences for victims, their families, and society.


It is not limited to any particular geography, ethnic or social background, and all councils should assume that CSE is happening in their area and take proactive action to prevent it.

Cllr David Simmonds

Recent events have shown that all areas need to be prepared to respond to this challenge robustly, and there are many good examples of effective work to be found around the country. The case studies in the report and online showcase some of the work that is already underway to improve local practice. These cover initiatives such as community engagement, regional work across local authority boundaries, building effective multi-agency partnerships and commissioning independent audits of local work.


Alongside these case studies, our 2015 resource pack contains a range of materials that councils may find useful when planning work locally. This includes an overview of key learning from recent reports and inquiries, a myth busting guide to common stereotypes around CSE, and advice for councillors on how to assess the effectiveness of local practice. Further resources, including training tools and advice on working with the media are available online, and will be updated regularly.


Tackling child sexual exploitation must be a priority for all of us, and the resources available in our 2015 report and this online resource highlight the very real difference that councils and their partners can make in preventing this awful crime – and the crucial role of councillors within this.


Councillor David Simmonds, Chair of the LGA Children and Young People Board


Tackling child sexual exploitation: A resource pack for councils

About this resource


This resource aims to help councils implement effective responses to child sexual exploitation within their own organisation, with their local partners and their communities.


Recognising that councils will have different approaches and circumstances, it does not set out a ‘one-size-fits-all’ resource that all councils should follow. Instead, it brings together and shares a set of resources, both new and existing, in order to provide councils with ideas and materials that can be adapted to suit local needs. It includes briefings, communications support, training materials and case studies.

What is child sexual exploitation?


Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (eg food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet or mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child or young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

World Social Day at the United Nations New York


SW at UN 3

Written by The International Federation of Social Work


This week IFSW organized a World Social Day event at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York. More than 500 social workers, educators, students and United Nations officials attended to celebrate the achievements of social workers worldwide.


Angelo McCain from The National Association of Social Workers USA spoke passionately about the importance of social workers upholding people’s dignity in their work and the impact that this has on the lives of people who attend social work services.


Ramu Damondaran, Chief of UN Academic Impact, highlighted the historical contributions that the social work profession has made to human rights. Rory Truell IFSW Secretary-General said, “We are very pleased that UN agencies and the social work profession can work effectively together to progress our common agendas”. He also noted, “That early drafts of the UN post-2015 agenda have not yet highlighted the need for all countries to have social protection systems which support all members of society. Nor does the post-2015 agenda address the global dynamics that drive inequality and poverty. As  a profession that addresses not just the symptoms, but also the root-causes we will continue to advocate within our valued partnerships for community empowerment, transformational change and sustainability”.


IFSW wishes to thank the organizers: Michael Cronin, IFSW Main Representative and Co-Chair of the event, and the IFSW representatives Robin Mama, Co-Chair, Elaine Congress, Marica Wallace, and interns Mariam Elrazaz and Brittany Larkin for organizing the event. Also Lynne Healy IASSW Representative who concluded the event with the ‘Wrap-Up session’.


To learn more about the World Social Work Day at the UN in Geneva and to see images from celebrations around the world click here.

David Starkey attacks ‘victim status’ of ethnic minorities and disabled, accuses Baroness Lawrence of treating black people as victims

Written by the Independent:


David Starkey has accused Baroness Doreen Lawrence of “constantly” treating black people as victims and attacked the ‘victim status’ of ethnic minorities, Muslims and the disabled.


The outspoken historian gave a controversial interview to The Telegraph, where he suggested black people, the Muslim community and the disabled should refuse to be labelled victims.


He claimed campaigners such as Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered Stephen Lawrence, are perpetuating the status of black people as victims.


The 70-year-old suggested some black American civil rights leaders have “espoused victimhood and violence” instead of working towards equality in the peaceful direction advocated by leaders such as Martin Luther King.

Doreen Lawrence, murdered teenager Stephen's mother

Doreen Lawrence, murdered teenager Stephen’s mother “I think to a dangerous extent that has happened in this country,” he said. “With all the praise that’s lavished on [Baroness] Doreen Lawrence, she’s constantly treating blacks as victims.”


All forms of liberation, he added, depend upon the person refusing to be a victim. He claimed there is now “this perpetual procession of people – group after group – wanting to assume the status of victim”, describing it as “catastrophic”.

The “cry of Islamaphobia”, he added, is attempting to make Muslims into victims “and therefore somehow privileged and exempt.”


“All forms of liberation – and I speak as gay and I was in all this when it wasn’t fashionable, when you didn’t get your CBE for being a prominent poofter, when
there were actual penalties for doing it – all of them depend upon you taking control,” he said.


His remarks saw him branded a “racist” and “bigot” by appalled social media users.


Starkey told the newspaper that he was born “quite seriously disabled” and lambasted the way in which he believes the disabled are “presented perpetually as victims”. He was born with two club feet and underwent a number of surgeries.


He later digressed onto the genetic difference between men and women, where he claimed scientific evidence suggested there are “different distributions of intelligence” between men and women. “Women tend to cluster more around the mean, men are either very, very bright or very thick.”

Many deaths of mentally ill in custody ‘avoidable’



Source:  NHS Choices

“Hundreds of deaths in mental health units ‘were avoidable’,” says a report on the front page of today’s Independent. The Guardian highlights 662 mentally ill detainee deaths from 2010 to 2013.


Both stories follow an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into the deaths of people with mental health conditions while detained in police custody, prisons or psychiatric hospitals.


The inquiry looked at whether people who were detained had been treated correctly according to EHRC guidelines. The inquiry focused on two basic rights: the right to life and the right to non-discrimination.

What is the EHRC?

The EHRC is an independent body working to challenge discrimination, and to protect and promote human rights in England, Scotland and Wales. In compliance with the Human Rights Act, it aims to help enforce equality legislation on grounds such as age, disability, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and marriage and civil partnership.


Over the period 2010 to 2013, there were 367 deaths from non-natural causes of adults with mental health conditions while detained in psychiatric wards and police custody. A further 295 adults died in prison, many of whom had mental health conditions.


The inquiry identified many areas of concern, including a lack of information sharing between professionals, insufficient involvement of family members, inappropriate use of restraint, and failure to learn from past incidents.


The Commission recommends that rigorous systems are put in place to ensure that any incidents are thoroughly and transparently investigated, and acted upon.

What did the EHRC investigate?

The Commission’s report looked into deaths in detention for those with mental health conditions. The inquiry looked at the period 2010 to 2013 in three detention areas:

Psychiatric hospitals. Detention in hospital means being held under the Mental Health Act, which is sometimes referred to as being “sectioned”. In 2012/13, there were said to be over 50,000 such detentions and the number has since been increasing.

Police custody. The Mental Health Act allows for a person “in crisis in a public space” to be held in police custody as a “place of safety” when there is insufficient other health-based support available. In 2012/13, there were reported to be 7,761 occasions when the Act was used to hold an individual in police cells.


Prisons. The prison service does not record the number of imprisoned people who have mental health conditions; however, they are likely to affect a large proportion of inmates. The most recent data – from 1997 – reported that 92% of male prisoners were suffering from psychosis, neurosis, personality disorder, alcohol misuse or drug dependence.


The Commission wanted to establish the extent to which there has been compliance with Article 2 (the right to life) and Article 14 (the right to non-discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. It wanted to see whether improved compliance with these civil rights rules could reduce deaths in psychiatric hospitals, prisons and police custody.

What did the inquiry find about deaths in detention?

From 2010 to 2013, there were 367 deaths from non-natural causes of adults with mental health conditions while detained in psychiatric wards and police custody. A further 295 adults died in prison, many of whom had mental health conditions.


The inquiry found that the same mistakes are being repeated across prisons, police cells and psychiatric hospitals. This includes, for example, the failure to appropriately monitor patients and prisoners at serious risk of suicide, even in cases where their records recommend constant or frequent observation. It also includes failure to remove “ligature points” in psychiatric hospitals, which are known to be often used in suicide attempts.


According to the inquiry report, psychiatric hospitals are an “opaque system”. The Commission found it difficult to access information about non-natural deaths in psychiatric hospitals, such as individual investigation reports. This contrasts with prisons and police settings, where there is an independent body in charge of investigating deaths and ensuring that lessons are learnt.


The Commission also found misplaced concerns about data protection, leading to failures to share important information, such as concerns of other professionals about mental health, or suicidal tendencies not being passed on to prison staff. Similarly, failure to involve families to support the person being detained make it difficult for the family to pass on information that might have prevented deaths. Poor communication between staff, including lack of updates on risk assessments after self-harm or suicide attempts, was also highlighted.


Other significant findings included:

The availability of drugs, including “legal highs”, in prison.

Evidence of bullying and intimidation in prisons in the lead-up to someone talking their own life. This can result in a person being locked up alone in a cell for their own safety, because there is nowhere else for them to go. This can lead to deterioration of the person’s mental state.

Inappropriate use of restraint in people with mental health conditions, including “face-down” restraint. There were also increasing reports of police officers being called out to restrain people on psychiatric wards.

A high number of deaths occurred shortly after a person ended a period of detention, suggesting insufficient mental health support and follow-up.

What does the EHRC recommend?

The EHRC recommends:

Structured ways of learning from deaths and near misses in all settings where people with mental illness are detained, to ensure that improvements are made.

Individual prisons, hospitals and police settings should focus more strongly on meeting the basic responsibilities of keeping detainees safe. It recommends better staff training, and for the inspection regimes to explicitly monitor this.

The Commission wants more “transparency”, to allow services to be scrutinised and held to account. The Commission suggests that the “statutory duty of candour”, which is being introduced in April 2015 and applies to all NHS bodies in England, could help to achieve this.

What happens next?


Mark Hammond, the EHRC’s chief executive says: “This Inquiry reveals serious cracks in our systems of care for those with serious mental health conditions. We need urgent action and a fundamental culture shift to tackle the unacceptable and inadequate support for vulnerable detainees.


“The improvements we recommend aren’t necessarily complicated or costly: openness and transparency, and learning from mistakes are just about getting the basics right. In particular, by listening and responding to individuals and their families, organisations can improve the care and protection they provide.”


The Commission says it is now going to follow up its recommendations with the relevant organisations.

NHS bed blocking crisis: 282k patients remain in hospital due to cruel Tory cuts

A nurse tends to recovering patients on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital


More than 280,000 elderly patients were stuck in hospital this winter after Tory budget cuts triggered an ­“unprecedented” social care crisis.


A damning report today exposes the growing problem of delayed ­transfers of care – or bed blocking – which is up 30% on the same period last year.


Almost 70% of nurses admitted they were “frequently” delaying discharging older patients because there was no one to care for them at home or in the community.


Nearly all of the NHS staff described it as a “serious” problem and 82% said it had got worse in the past year.


Older persons’ charity the Royal ­Voluntary Service, which provided the figures, said more than 4,000 patients were blocking beds every day.

Bed blocking – up 30% in a year

Delayed discharges this winterSame period last year

Royal Voluntary Service

Its head David McCullough said: “This winter we’ve seen delays in hospital discharge reach unprecedented levels, with lack of support for older people after hospital a root cause.


“While additional funding has been allocated in some areas to address the crisis, many authorities and hospital trusts are still facing budget cuts.”


The Tory-led Coalition has slashed £1billion from social care budgets, leaving hospitals struggling to arrange support from care workers and district nurses. In total there were 281,982 delayed discharges this winter.


That was up 30% from the 216,797 in the same period last year.

Bed blocking


Older patients languishing when fit to be discharged


Number blocking beds every day


Nurses ‘frequently’ delaying elderly discharges

Royal Voluntary Service


The Government insisted it had given the NHS an extra £700million this winter to fund extra staff and beds.


Yet today’s report found 40% of older patients ended up languishing in hospital when they were fit to discharged. Experts said being left in limbo in such a way was extremely distressing.


Another cause of the problem is older people’s families demanding staff keep them in hospital for longer – even when their relative is well enough to leave.


More than half of nurses said they had experienced such pressure.


One in 10 nurses said their hospital had resorted to eviction notices on patients and families to free up beds.


The scandal is also having a huge impact on A&E waiting times because there are fewer beds for new admissions.


David Buck, of health think-tank The King’s Fund, said: “Delayed discharges are a key indicator of the performance of not only hospitals, but how our overall health and care systems are working.”


Labour wants to integrate health and social care if it wins the general election. It has also vowed to recruit at least 5,000 NHS staff to care for patients at home.