Generally Speaking

A target a day keeps professional vocation away

3 important letters in the Guardian of 23 February 2013

Catherine Hopewell (Letters, 21 February) hits the nail on the head. It’s the target culture which has all but destroyed the professions of social work, education and health, replacing care and common humanity with an obsessive drive for “results”, scored by tick-box assessments on computer databases. In the last 10 years I have seen the social work service for children, young people and families distorted beyond recognition by the need to feed the Ofsted-driven target machine and, to that end, on management instruction, have held “meetings” in the school holidays when nobody could attend, undertaken home visits to families when nobody was in and manipulated my work in all sorts of ways to meet targets rather than real human needs.
The culmination was working in an organisation where personal supervision and team meetings focused on reading out the results of individual and collective “scores” on the data spread-sheet. Children were never mentioned at all. The target culture can be traced back to the Thatcher era, continuing under Blair and Brown, with even more vigour and added spin. Taking care of people cannot be reduced to tick boxes, spreadsheets and scores. It is high time the fightback began and people were given the help they need. My target is to ignore the next five targets I am given.
Kevin Morgan
Beaminster, Dorset

•  Over 30 years as a hospital doctor leads me to concur about the morale-destroying effects of the target-driven culture. The idea of a vocation to help other human beings has all but gone and I fear that we are reaping the effects in our next generation of doctors, teachers and social workers. The Francis report highlights some of the appalling results when targets become more important than humanity (which of course is not readily amenable to measurement). I would welcome the creation of a multi-professional forum in which people-orientated work values, and the quality of care that results from treating both service users and staff as valued human beings, could be resurrected before it is too late.
Dr Diana Brighouse
Chichester, West Sussex

•  As a teacher I have seen the negative impact that tick-box targets can have. Tick boxes rarely have much to do with the real day-to-day challenges. They are a tool designed to empower managers, not to help public-facing staff. Competition may drive efficiency in the private sector, but in education we do not want winners and losers. We want every child to be given the best possible classroom experience. What we really need is a culture of trust and co-operation.
Alun Gordon

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