I will not pretend to have read Laming’s report which was published yesterday. I haven’t. Honestly, I’m struggling a bit with my workload at the moment (oh, the irony!) and getting home I’m finding it difficult to motivate myself for anything other than pretty bland conversation or fixing my attention to the moving wallpaper on the television.
However, it would be remiss of me not to comment on one of the most important reports affecting social work and particularly child protection social work for a while.
So accepting that I am relying on second-hand reporting and bullet points and bearing in mind that I do not, and never have worked in children’s services, the one thing that jumped out at me – that I do have more knowledge of – was the issue made about training.
And, in addition to the longer-term reforms that the task force will propose, we will act now to:
• ensure that all newly qualified social workers starting this year will receive a year of intensive induction training, supervision and support.
Good, about time too – I really hope it isn’t confined to children’s social work though – and personally, I’d vote for a couple of years.
• introduce from this year a new advanced social work professional status to ensure the most highly skilled social work practitioners can stay close to the frontline with better career progression.
Um. . I honestly thought this was already in place through the Specialist, Higher Specialist and Advanced Specialist Social Work awards.
• expand the graduate recruitment scheme and attract qualified social workers back to the profession.
OK – hard to disagree there.
• ensure, over time, that all practitioners can study on the job for a master’s level qualification.
Again, in my own little universe I thought this was already in place. See above.
I don’t honestly see much ‘new’ there.
allowing students to specialise in children’s social work after the first year of their degrees
Now, that, I found more than a little concerning. If anything, they should, in my very humble opinion, increase the degree length from three years to four (or more) rather than pushing people to specialise one year in.
I don’t want to hark back to the ‘in my day’ type talk but I can’t help but comment the idea of introducing the degree rather than the diploma in the first place was to raise standards? Why did they get it so wrong? Or did they? Is it just that the universities are trying to squeeze in more undergraduates than they have ‘proper’ placements for?
One of the things that changed was dropping some of the pre-qualification experience requirements. When I applied for my MA, and I was (as I found out while studying and talking to the university staff) a really borderline decision for the university – we needed five years experience in social care plus a first degree (because it was the postgraduate course). There was also an age bar – I can’t remember exactly what it was, but at 25 I was the youngest in my cohort – and for those mathematicians – I graduated from my first degree at 20!).
When they switched to the degree system, we did have conversations in the workplace about the appropriateness of qualifying as a social worker aged 21 straight from school. But it seemed (and still does) a little ungracious to those students. Age shouldn’t be a bar however there is no question that the experience that I had pre-qualification was enormously vital in my growth and confidence since and during my training.
However, I think separating children’s social work from adult social work after one year – possibly including people who have no previous experience, is desperately damaging to the profession as a whole.
We need more cohesion, we need more focus on societal factors, theoretical knowledge – we need the common academic background. We need to move away from the degree as the professional qualification, in my own opinion.
Of course specialised on the job training is valuable but add that after the degree – another year added onto the degree with a specialist aspect – I’d be all for that.
I mentioned this earlier in the week but how about a degree covering the academic aspects of training and then post-graduate on-the-job training – similar to lawyers (I think) – perhaps over a couple of years?
Social work isn’t just about working in UK statutory organisations and the degree should not be just about filling posts in child protection teams. It should be about knowledge and learning and understanding the place of social work in a sociological context. All social workers need to learn about risk management but also about mental health, about sociology, about social policy, about child development, about social models of disability, about substance misuse and about global social work.
We need to broaden knowledge to think about families and systems as a whole and how they fit together rather than looking at children as a separate knowledge stream. Perhaps children and families (as well as adult services of course) would be better served with social workers who were able to think more broadly about all the factors which impact on society as a whole and people rather than streaming away the important different tasks that social workers then concentrate on.
I feel strongly because I feel it is important that I trained generically.
I hope the GSCC which has constantly backed generic training will continue to do so in the face of clear government pressure.
I’m not holding my breathe though.