Monthly Archives: September 2012

Di Galpin

 As the government seeks to speed up the adoption process with Michael Gove highlighting the value of a stable and nurturing environment, an adult adoptee suggests the actual adoption is just the beginning and more support post adoption is needed.

On this, Michael Gove and I agree, adoption has to be better than a child languishing in the care system, farmed out to a multitude of foster placements that may break down.  Just as Mr. Gove’s personal experience shapes his thoughts on adoption so do mine.

What I think the government and Mr Gove fails to understand is the change in reasons why children are adopted today compared to when we were both adopted.  In my case I was adopted  because I was illegitimate and my mother did not have the means to care for me in terms of a home, cash or family support, I think this is…

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Di Galpin

Dispatches (Channel 4, 8pm, 29th Oct)) asked whether the handover of health services to the private sector is good for the public purse, let alone patient care?  The Government reforms mean multi-million pound NHS contracts are being awarded to companies such as Virgin Care.  Is this a good thing? As The Independent reports on the criminal wrongdoing of drug companies, the question is should we be worried about the increased role of companies who stand to make huge profits from reform of the NHS?

A central tenet of the health care reforms is the introduction of ‘any qualified providers’, which within a few weeks will force PCTs to let private firms provide NHS services.  This means the Department of Health will take the most potentially lucrative, standardised, high volume and low risk treatments provided by the NHS and offer these up to private companies, the Americans charmingly refer to private providers who deliver such treatment as…

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Using social media to support learning and practice in social work

‘Trying to find the magic’ in practice or ‘trying to write a classic’ social work assignment can be hard….but help is at hand from Christina Perri, The Manic Street Preachers and Lana del Rey (with a little encouragement from Natasha Beddingfield) …… yes, really

Alongside practical experience developing practice in social work also involves a lot of reading.  The problem is, sometimes academic textbooks, research and journals can be quite difficult to understand and seem remote from practice, this can put you off reading in depth.  If you find text books and journal articles really hard to get into, the chances are  something written in a different style would help.  If that sounds like someone you know, or yourself, one way to support learning and professional development can be through the use of social media, for example twitter,  blogs and YouTube, used alongside more traditional academic materials.

Using social media to support professional development and learning is exciting because it enables you to learn in a ‘virtual’  classroom, the size of the world, but from where you are.  Information contained in blogs and on twitter is up to date as they often respond in real time to events as they happen.  The ability to access relevant up to date information has the potential to boost your learning, and your confidence!  Social media resources are often more concise and much more accessible than tradition academic texts,  giving an understanding of key issues quickly, as well as useful links to follow up.  There are many blog and twitter accounts that might be useful, some written by experienced practitioners, or those who use services as well as others, like me, who used to be a social worker but now work in a university.  Reading a range of authors work can help give a different perspective. Try these to start; The Small Places – with a focus on Mental Capacity, and The Not So Big Society – with a focus on anything and everything health and social care related!  Both are really topical and can lead to other useful resources, such as people to follow on Twitter, like Ermintrude2, an experienced social worker and keen blogger, or,  Clare Horton from the Guardian (editor of Society).  Engage with the people you follow on Twitter, where else could you actually communicate with the editor of the Guardian Society section (a must read for health and social care).  Another favourite of mine is Full Fact, which I follow on Facebook, this helps verify the accuracy of statistical information often used by politicians and the media to comment on social issues, for example immigration is always a controversial topic, has an increase in foreign nationals led to a surge in crime in the UK?  Checking out, rather than just accepting headlines, leads to informed debate rather than dogma.

YouTube and iTunes U are also a good resource to supplement your learning.  For example take a subject like social policy, click here, Youtube has short pieces to full length lectures on a range of social care topics, often given by leading names in the profession, and of course you can watch these at a time convenient to you and replay them when you find something difficult to understand.

It is likely technology will be used more in social work education in the future, for example Leeds Metropolitan University has created ‘Learnscape’ a learning platform that attempts to replicate real social work practice in virtual locations. Some will find this helpful, others daunting.  The thing to remember is these are all tools to support you, and you can control how you choose to use them.

Having fun, after all it is called ‘social’ media: an example of blending blogs with YouTube 

Here are three blogs you might find helpful to get started with, they cover adoption, older people’s services and social policy (privatisation of healthcare).  I often link my blogs to song titles or lyrics, so have included a playlist which I hope will help you, or at the very least give you a break from the boredom of studying!  By linking these blogs, and the ideas contained in them, to the songs you hear you will be better able to remember the key issues, however, you really have to actively think about the points made in the blog and explicitly link them to the song, so when you replay the song in your mind you also kind of replay the blog!  (read someone like Tony Buzan to help develop effective learning techniques).  You could also use social media when meeting with your colleagues, student group, practice assessors, supervisors, mentors or tutors to stimulate discussion and/or debate on a particular topical subject.

Finally, write your own blog and engage with Twitter, retweet what you find and become the one providing information to others. Complete the poll at the end of this blog and be part of research, or even better, do your own research using social media!

More will follow next month if you find these helpful.  Good luck.

Blog 1 Social Policy: Lana Del Rey: If ‘money is the anthem of success’ why do I have no confidence in a privatised health and social care system?

The Health and Social Care Act has opened the way for further privatisation of health and social care provision. ‘Care’ is now a commodity, just like iphones’ and cars, if there is enough demand the private sector will provide and consumers can shop around for the best deal. However, is that what happens when ‘consumers’ (service users) buy care?

Blog 2 Older People: Manic Street Preachers – Dignity in the care of older people – “If you tolerate this then your children will be next”

Poor levels of care for older people is a topical subject at the moment.  Sadly there is a problem with the system, however, improving care provision for older people is not just about today’s older population, it is about all our futures, our own and our children’s.

Blog 3 Adoption: Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts, Lost families: “I can’t take one more step toward you because all that’s waiting is regret’

This is quite a personal one from me. You might be thinking about working in adoption services, finding families is all important, however, have you ever wondered what happens to those adopted children when they become adults and want to know more about their natural family? This is my story.

Time to stop and reflect……

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the hussle of everyday life we forget there is a world out there, indeed lots of worlds!  It is good to stop and reflect just to refresh ourselves, take a moment today to step outside of your ‘world’.

Have a good weekend.

First picture from NASA of water on Mars – an amazing and outstanding achievement!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Adoption File: ‘Baby Evans’…………

‘Baby Evans’…….that’s me!!!!

Finally, the adoption file has been read.  Has it provided that one vital piece of information that will lead me directly to my birth mother?  No, but I am getting closer, more on that later.

The adoption process was very different in those days that’s for sure.  The assessment of my adoptive parents is probably the polar opposite of todays procedures. The whole assessment is no more than two pages long and the worker appeared particularly impressed that even though my adoptive father was on a low wage (£8.15 shillings a week) the family were saving for a car, so were clearly of good character and highly suited to adopting a baby.  A bit slim in terms of evidence of potential parenting skills I know, but, no matter, just to double check all would be well they obtained a ‘satisfactory reference from a neighbour’, oh!  Whilst some parts of the file really made me laugh, was my whole future really based on the potential purchase of a Ford Anglia?,  other parts were just, well sad.  One sentence in particular brought tears to my eyes when it says of my adoptive parents ‘they are anxious to adopt this baby whom she and her husband have grown to love’.  My relationship with my adoptive parents was not great, to be honest it was a real shock to read they loved me.  When did I stop feeling loved I wonder?  In truth my adoption affected everyone of us in the family, it was shrouded in secrecy and shame, never ever spoken about but ever present.  I was never told of my adoption or the circumstances that led to my adoption, and no one in my family will speak about it, indeed my older sister still refuses to acknowledge I’m adopted.

It was pleasing to read in the file that my birth mother seemed to disengage with the process – she did not respond to letters or keep appointments, and even lied about knowing the whereabouts of her husband so he could not confirm he was not my father, thus holding up the adoption process for several months.  What does this all mean, well in the absence of hard evidence I choose to believe she was having second thoughts, maybe the reality of being a woman from a minority ethnic group trying to raise an illegitimate child on her own, with no family support (her family were in India), won out in the end and she did what she thought was best for me, and possibly her only option.

It was strange seeing me referred to as ‘Baby Evans’ and ‘Susan Evans’ and telling of the social context of the time that my mother is not referred to by name but as ‘the child’s mother’,  it is also noted ‘Baby Evans’ is illegitimate throughout.  There is nothing regarding my mothers Asian ethnicity, nor anything about what she might look like or family history.  All things I have subsequently found out over the course of the last 34 years.  These things have been extremely important to me in helping me understand more about who I am and where I come from and have given me a real sense of identity and worth.Thank goodness that has changed now and adopted children are given more information about their birth family.

Whilst the file has not led me to my birth mother it has unexpectedly led me to rethink the relationship with my adoptive mother. To read that she had grown to love ‘Baby Evans’ has changed the way I see her.  Over the years I have often wondered why she adopted me , because I often felt unwanted to be honest, but at this moment in her life, 12th May 1961, the reason she adopted me  is officially recorded as love,  hmm ‘sometimes it’s hard to recognise, love comes as a surprise, and it’s too late…….’ she died in 1994 (Human League, Together).

This is not the end of my search though,  there has been a significant development. At the end of last year I applied to appear on the ITV programme ‘Lost Families’.  Amazingly, out of thousands I was selected as a potential participant. They came and interviewed me, and lo and behold they decided to include my story in the programme!

And so the next step began, the most significant of my life.  An end is in sight, or is it a new beginning, or the beginning of the end, who knows.  All I do know is that whatever the outcome I cannot stop now. So I try to prepare for every eventuality, and hope for the best.

(This is the 3rd  in the ‘Adoption File’ blogs, the full story, with outcome of my search, can be read in a free ibook available here <a href="here“>) You will need an ipad to read it though. I hope you find it interesting.

#Big Pharma:Getting rich on the NHS…

Dispatches (Channel 4, 8pm, 29th Oct)) asked whether the handover of health services to the private sector is good for the public purse, let alone patient care?  The Government reforms mean multi-million pound NHS contracts are being awarded to companies such as Virgin Care.  Is this a good thing? As The Independent reports on the criminal wrongdoing of drug companies, the question is should we be worried about the increased role of companies who stand to make huge profits from reform of the NHS?

A central tenet of the health care reforms is the introduction of ‘any qualified providers’, which within a few weeks will force PCTs to let private firms provide NHS services.  This means the Department of Health will take the most potentially lucrative, standardised, high volume and low risk treatments provided by the NHS and offer these up to private companies, the Americans charmingly refer to private providers who deliver such treatment as ‘focused factories’.  These healthcare companies will already have had some influence on deciding which treatment will be handed over to the private sector. Companies like 2020Health ,who suggest we need to decentralise health and social care provision, and who, by chance, have links to the conservative party via  Tom Sackville (ex Tory health minister) and Julia Manning, their CEO and a Conservative candidate, not to mention 2020’s links to the two big pharmaceutical companies Pfizer (fined over 2 billion dollars since 2009 for criminal wrongdoing) and Lilly.   

Such downright unethical practice is linked to profit, pharmaceutical companies appear driven by a different set of moral and ethical standards than most professionals working in the health service.  The government is effectively asking advice from the market on creating a market for its products, which may actually damage patients health.   At least at present we have some line of accountability, once healthcare is even more fragmented that will soon be lost.  We just have to look at the financial sector and private care providers (Winterbourne View) to understand who pays for mistakes when ethical practice and accountability is absent.

Advocates of the increased privatisation of the NHS suggest by involving private companies in the development and delivery of health care standards will be improved, and cost less.  However, a report  by the Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care systems around the world, found where a significant proportion of healthcare was provided by the private sector it did not result in a better system across the board, in terms of price and utility.

For example the USA was no better than the UK. The most efficient system appears to be in Japan, where the report suggests the government keeps tight control of the pricing of treatments provided by the private sector. “Notably, the Japanese do not restrain spending by restricting access; rather, they do so by aggressively regulating health care prices.  Every two years, a panel of experts uses volume projections to revise the national fee schedule, which determines the maximum prices for nearly all health services, to keep total health spending growth within a target set by the central government. Providers’ profitability is also monitored, and when certain categories of providers (e.g., acute care hospitals or ambulatory specialists) demonstrate significantly greater profitability than the average, prices for their services are reduced. Despite such overt price controls, the results are hard to dispute—the Japanese enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world”.

Leys and Player’s book ‘The Plot Against the NHS‘ clearly outlines how we got to this point.  Both New Labour and the coalition government have not deviated from their cosy relationships with health sector providers who act as advisors to government on important policy making, however, we need not look too far a field to see the potential pitfalls of such an approach, unless of course it is highly regulated, such as in Japan.

However, the future of the NHS is not just about money, there are moral and ethical issues at stake here.

Danny Boyle highlighted the status of the NHS in British culture at the Olympics opening ceremony, and its good to stop and reflect on the place a universal system of healthcare has in British society, before it is too late. Dr Mark Porter, the leader of the BMA, makes a welcomed call for a health care system founded on social solidarity rather than a series of cash transactions, I think he may have a point.