Promises promises, and of course some mindless retribution

In the past?

We tend, on this blog, not to write posts about social work despite it making up a sizable chunk of the budgets of the councils we work for. This is for a simple reason; none of us are social workers and the work they do is incredibly skilled and complicated.

This post is a rare exception but nothing in it should be taken as claiming any sort of social work expertise. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a blog with that sort of knowledge check out fighting monsters).

As many of you will be aware last week was a pretty big one for adult social care and the mainstream news with both the Southern Cross affair and the Panorama expose of Winterbourne View in the news.

Naturally, as this unpleasantness unfolded everyone looked to the Government; would they look to ‘bail out’ Southern Cross and what would they do about Winterbourne View?

I missed the Sunday morning TV shows but found a summary of the Government’s official response, courtesy of Paul Burstow MP, to Winterbourne View on the BBC website. The bits of the story that are direct quotes are as follows:

“It comes as a surprise to people that the statutory basis for the safeguarding of vulnerable adults in this country is much weaker than that which exists for children.

“I’m committed to follow through on some recommendations we have received recently from the Law Commission to implement statutory safeguarding rules that will require the police the NHS, social services to work together.”


Mr Burstow told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that he did believe the chief executive of the CQC, Cynthia Bower, should resign over the failures.

This made me a little grumpy and here’s why:1)    According to my colleagues in adult social care (which is treated differently to those in childrens for obvious reasons) their budget for this year is going to be cut by something like 10-15%. This is despite there being no difference in need of the people involved and no sign of demand going down. This will be done by squeezing suppliers (Southern Cross anyone?), reducing the level of service and cutting staff.

So, if the Minister wants to make any statement about additional activities that need to be carried out by our hard-pressed social work teams, does he not also need to accompany this with a sum of money to pay for it? And the same must surely apply to the law commission’s call for a more rigorous safeguarding role for local authorities too? Once again, the difference between the treatment of local authorities social care functions and the NHS seems a tad on the inconsistent front.

2)    Calling for the head of Cynthia Bower seems a bit on the ‘short-term mindless retribution’ side of fair. Was Ms Bower involved in the inspection that failed? Has the Government adjudicated that the CQC is carrying out consistently bad inspections? Is there something faulty with the organisation that was not faulty seven days ago? Will firing Cynthia Bower make any difference at all other than to satisfy some public blood lust? The answer is of course no.

So what have we got from Mr Burstow this weekend? An unfunded commitment and a mindless firing of a member of staff who as far as I can tell has done nothing wrong.

Surely, even within the context of the massive budget cuts the Government are making we could expect better from our ministers than that?

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5 Comments on “Promises promises, and of course some mindless retribution”

  1. cb Says:

    Thanks for the mention of my blog 🙂
    On to the issues as I see them.
    Firstly, the recommendations in the law commission are still not as strong as they could (should, in my opinion) have been. The amount of work we (in adult social care) have spent in safeguarding work has increased massively over the past 5 years but in a lot of ways, it is incredibly frustrating as the tools we have to do any kind of preventative work or to take any action against people even when issues of abuse are identified, is very poor (when abuse doesn’t involve a ‘crime’ so issues like emotional/verbal abuse).
    Budget restraints are having a massive effect on our departments and have for long before the previous election – this is not just a conservative/liberal democrat issue of cuts – we were pulling back progressively for many years. Although people talk about ‘ageing populations’ I think few outside the sector have a good understanding of the amount that this is costing and is going to cost – sure, there’s another review about funding for adult social care but it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last because difficult decisions can be avoided as long as successive governments keep asking for more reviews and don’t actually DO anything.

    As for the CQC – I think it was appalling that Bower was appointed in the first place given the role she had in the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital management system. It hardly instills confidence in her ability to run a regulatory body – but, and I think this is again very important – the CQC and it’s predecessor body (CSCI – as far as social care is concerned) have been progressed cut and cut by central government and the management have continued to maintain that they can provide a better service with fewer staff.
    If they had stronger management and fewer ‘yes-men’ they should have stood up to the cuts and been more open about the fewer inspection personnel.
    I have a good friend who is an inspector for the CQC. She told me that they were cutting and depending on LA quality assurance teams to alert them to problems.
    See a problem here? Yes, the QA teams are being cut as a so-called ‘back office’ role.
    It all makes me angry because these two issues – Winterbourne and Southern Cross – didn’t come as a surprise to me. You don’t need to have the powers of a Cassandra to have been able to see this coming. It has been building up for years – problem is, noone listens to the underlings ‘at the coal face’…
    Thanks for the post and sorry for the rant – got a bit carried away!

  2. john davies Says:

    The question about Blower’s competetence was raised as usually in Private Eye. Her responses to the recent Parliamentary Cte was as recorded in the Eye arrogant and dismissive. My mother in law died on 25 April.She had been left unconscious in her own cold vomit in Winwick Southern Cross care home. She was taken to Warrington hospital where she was cared for brilliantly as she died. The staffing of the care home at night was three staff to twenty three residents. The staff nurse in the past had had to work from 6pm to 12 pm the next day because of her relief not turning up. She was not paid overtime.

    The scandal of CQC was highlighted in recent BBC Radio 4 progamme where care homes can close an open up again without this fact being noted on the website
    Brewer is another example of egotistical arrogance, endemic in bad managers, in both private and public sectors over reaching there ability.
    She is another example of a managerialist with a cushy number who should do something productive – try working in a Call Centre.
    It is no good whinging about cuts – as the privitisation continues and cuts increase the incompetents such as Brewer will be exposed

    • Thanks for the comments… It seems I might have missed the wider problems regarding the CQC…

      As for the cuts; I think we may have to agree to disagree; reducing costs will not increase quality…

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