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Social chat at Downing Street

PUBLISHED: 20:25 26 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:36 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK social worker has made the most of a rare opportunity to buttonhole Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street, about workers' plight.

When she was invited to a reception to recognise the work of Britain's social workers, Pat Leach seized the chance to tackle the top dogs – including Tony and Cherie Blair and health secretary Alan Milburn – to discuss more than small talk.

A SUFFOLK social worker has made the most of a rare opportunity to buttonhole Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street, about workers' plight.

When she was invited to a reception to recognise the work of Britain's social workers, Pat Leach seized the chance to tackle the top dogs – including Tony and Cherie Blair and health secretary Alan Milburn – to discuss more than small talk.

She said: "We did talk about positive things like how the Surestart project in Ipswich is helping families in the community and should continue, and the good work of foster carers, but I felt it was also important to raise the issues which are of concern to myself and colleagues.

"I had the opportunity to do that, and I took it.

"We spoke about the difficulties of recruiting more social workers, and the difficulty of trying to provide a good service for people without the appropriate resources. I know the Prime Minister is aware of the issues, but it was a chance for him to hear from someone doing to job on the ground level."

She was nominated by acting director of social care at Suffolk County Council, Peter Tempest, who said: "Suffolk County Council is very proud of Pat, and of social workers like her, who do a very difficult job. Social workers help people with a wide variety of problems such as families in need, adults with mental health problems or helping older people to live at home."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "Social workers throughout this country perform challenging and vital work every day. Yet they are the unsung heroes of the public services – their compassion and care for others is rarely recognised publicly.

"But it is their dedication to the profession that helps hundreds of thousands of individuals and families every year through difficult periods in their lives and I am delighted to have the opportunity to thank them for being a force for good in our country."

Pat is a social worker with one of the council's child care teams in east Ipswich specialising in child protection issues. She has also helped children in council care, and their families.

The Department of Health has also announced a second advertising campaign to run later in the Spring to encourage more people to enter social work and social care. This is part of a three-year initiative launched in October last year by Health Secretary Alan Milburn.


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