The BBC ran a story yesterday about the new government ‘task force’ which is going to look at the ‘root and branch’ changes that need to take place in Social Work. All this has, of course, only become evident over the past month or so since the ‘Baby P’ case came to light.
The last ‘root and branch’ change in social work training didn’t actually take place that long ago. The initial training changed in 2004 to the new degree courses. Just over the last year or so, the new Post qualifying Qualification Training has kicked in – certainly amid much confusion although I think the PQ training deserves another post to itself..
But looking back at the BBC article, one thing struck me. There was talk about failings in Haringey, talk about the need to protect vulnerable children, a rather firm looking picture of Ed Balls, the ‘Children’s Secretary’ who is quoted as saying the review will be ‘controversial’.
But apart from four words ‘Health Secretary Alan Johnson‘ there was nothing mentioned about adult social care and social work and even the sole mention of the Health Secretary is hardly comforting regarding the position that the needs of a professional developed and well-rounded task force.
There is talk of increasing pay and status of Social Workers but all this talk of how things ‘need to change’ and how disillusioned the profession is, is hardly going to encourage anyone into the profession.
I do think there are lots of things that can be emphasised to encourage people into the profession – but most people have no idea what social workers actually do, apart from ‘get things wrong’. Again and again. But honestly, I didn’t go into Social Work to be appreciated, loved or even particularly well-paid (although some kind of half decent recompense is greatly welcomed). I also didn’t go into Social Work to be ridiculed and to have the scope of my job and profession investigated, criticised and changed every few years. Mostly by the Government.
There are vast areas of social work that take place outside child protection. There are vast swathes of social work that take place outside the statutory sector. Of course, these don’t tend to interest leader writers.
Protection of vulnerable is vital but there is more to the profession that being responsive to knee-jerk circumstances and tragedies. It’s a shame this same initiative wasn’t taken when the last decision was made to ‘transform’ social work.
The government just can’t sit still on this though. The press were goading the public up to call for blood and change systems that they have little understanding of.
In my view, social work is an easy target partly because it has allowed itself to be.
It is a ‘new’ profession that emerged from the coat-tails of the Industrial Revolution. It grew from religious institutions and charities and it is a predominantly female profession.
There is little general understanding (and I’m taking my friends as case examples) of what I actually do or need to do on a regular basis and just about everyone thinks they could do my job with a little rudimentary ‘common sense’ or training.
The GSCC (General Social Care Council) doesn’t really help. It has made such a hash up of the Post Qualifying Training that the profession itself looks ridiculous and uncertain (more for another day, I think!).
BASW (British Association of Social Workers) represents some social workers but only those who choose to be represented by it and it seems (from the outside at least) as more of a closed club that has a somewhat static membership base than a broad representative organisation for Social Workers nationally.
Earlier this week, I was speaking to a colleague about how we would put our profession to rights – well, not the whole profession but adult services and mental health service at the very least (as those were areas we had experience in!). We knew it was pretty much a closed conversation but it was enormously satisfying just being able to share those thoughts openly and taking a blank piece of paper to the table.
I wonder how will get the opportunity to contribute to the task force. I wonder how much of the time specified will be allocated to some of the less ‘visible’ areas of social work and social care.
I do care deeply about the profession and its value base and being pulled and pushed from pillar to post with just about every government as a knee-jerk reaction doesn’t provide much comfort for those already working within the system.
I know changes need to be made – but mostly because previous changes that have had negative effects need to be undone.
Perhaps social work in the UK, at least, needs to move more into the macro and meso levels as well as the common concentration on the micro-level practice.
But I await with interest more information about the place of services lying outside the child protection arena within this review.
- Balls ‘was irresponsible’ to promise Baby P case will not happen again
- Government to reform social services after Baby P case
- Social care taskforce given greater importance in wake of Baby P
- Review aims to boost social workers’ status and quality
- Reviewing Social Work
- Social worker chiefs call for an end to demonisation of their colleagues following Baby P case