Golden Hello


The Local Government Association stated yesterday that the public castigation of social workers in the UK through a variety of media outlets has had an impact on the recruitment of staff. This isn’t any great surprise after all, I’ve had to justify my choice of profession to random people I meet in a social context more than ever over the past few months.

I won’t be embarrassed by it although it seems that’s pretty much the way the government is happy for it to go judging by their pandering to the tabloids.

image *Micky at Flickr

So it was interesting to note that the government also announced a plan to offer graduates places on a ‘National Management Trainee Scheme’ along with payments of £20 000 to trainees who enrol on the programme run by the ‘National Skills Academy’ (oh, that makes it really clear).

That, along with the lately announced CareFirst scheme to put 50,000 long term unemployed people into the social care workforce through training – which sounds at least potentially positive.

It’s a bit confusing though- for me anyway. Phil Hope, the Care Services Minister says he wants to

lure experienced graduates, managers and leaders from the private sector into the social care sector

and he thinks a £20 000 package from the ‘National Skills Academy’ will do this?

Is he looking at new graduates or at ‘luring people from the private sector’ because while I can see £20 000 being very tempting to new graduates, I’m not sure it would be so much to those who are already successful (because we don’t want the unsuccessful ones, right?) private sector leaders.

I had a nose around the National Skills Academy site. I didn’t know what it was and had never heard of it. Honestly though, the language and government-speak just made me run scared from it. It did however, mention a little about this graduate scheme saying it will establish

A new trainee scheme with equal status to local government, central government and health schemes. Intended to identify future leaders in any setting and give entrants a rounded experience of different types of employment. Entrants could be new to social care or existing staff, with an emphasis on increasing the diversity of people in leadership roles.

Maybe I’m over simplistic and over idealistic but I can’t help thinking the £20 000 would be better spent training up front line social workers and providing substantial and useful on-the-job training for newly qualified social workers (that the universities seem unable to offer as a matter of course)  rather than pumping the money into the management system which already suffers from too much detachment from the front line services.  Good management is necessary but I am of the mind that a manager should always be prepared to do for themselves what they ask others to do. That might be a little simplistic but it’s generally served me well for although I’ve never managed people directly, having worked for many years providing direct care has informed what I ask care homes and care agencies to do enormously.

I know I shouldn’t be so cynical – after all – maybe it is a genius idea that is the government’s way of solving all the problems.. the government created.

I just can’t help it though. Years of being micro-managed and de-skilled through frankly ineffectual management and being told at regular intervals how important re-organisations are again, and again and again at the expense of the actual relationship-building work and support and advocacy work which makes a real impact on the lives of those who we work with can become a teeny bit disheartening.

I’m not ready to give up yet though. My aim is to change from the inside but more and more I can see myself drifting into the voluntary sector eventually.

4 thoughts on “Golden Hello

  1. It seems like social work is on a merry go round, in local communities, clinging on for dear life, while the local thug, (be it manager, tabloid or government Tsar) pushes you faster and faster…so you don’t ever have time to be anything other than a ‘just in time incompetent, rather than valued in your own organisation, locally and in the media.

    If there’s a way out it has to be for social workers to understand how micro managing, secrecy and unaccountability is effectively bullying. It is really controlling difference and dissent at the micro level and so encourages controlling behaviour rather than communication with clients. How can there be authenticity if the client group who read tabloids, surf the net, see any relationship with social workers as limited in its range and authenticity, simply keeping the lid on their ‘dustbin’ lives?

    There is a lot of social prejudice against ‘the client’ already, whipped up against ‘these individuals’ rather than the wider social processes that are creating the problems social workers are ‘charged’ to ‘control’. Micro and chemical management of the ‘symptom’ is always going to be a self fulfilling prophecy.

    Social Work is powerfully containing individuals as if community work and different histories and stories were just casualties of the success of massive privatisation of all our institutions and ‘where we are now’. Yet the truth is that until social work recruits from all backgrounds, ages, experiences and aspirations who can really communicate and touch the lives of the ‘dustbin world’ so beloved of Radio 4 for example, then any new government recruitment campaign will divide your profession, just as the usual ‘fast-tracking’ has alienated so many long servers in the banks, the local authorities, the schools, the Health Service.

    You have to agree that micro managing is an apology for authenticity and the ‘cult’ of ‘high flying’ in local authorities that distracts and buys off real focus on serving communities with any tangible accountability that could fill their hearts with hope.

    There is nothing more sickening at local level than the ‘cult of leadership’ where good people are swerved off any real impact in their work to become ‘marketing’ for a status quo where nothing changes and the privatised gravy train and the ‘deserving’ ‘criminal’ and ‘evil’ poor stereotypes continue.

    Some people will be rubbing their hands with glee (again). First class access to the future for everyone! (Not just the so-called Leader Class and their families!)

    Kind regs etc

  2. The National Skills Academy is just yet another social care quango set up by the government, there are dozens of them now. And they’re all run by the same old faces from previous quangos, people who have been at the top of the system for many years, on really good salaries with whopping final salary pension schemes, and none of them, every, take responsibility for having failed to sort out social work problems. Just look at the academy’s list of senior staff – they’ve been involved in the likes of CCETSW, TOPSS, DH, you name it, for donkey’s years. Lions led by donkeys.

  3. I’m still struggling to work out how bringing in load of new, better trained, highly paid, successful managers is going to actually change a system in which the main problems is not enough field workers, with good training, adequate experience, and small enough caseloads to enable them to actually do their job properly? The problem appears to be not largely down to the management structure, it’s down to inadequate resources on the ground. And I can’t really understand the logic of how paying new managers and graduates £20,000 to work in social care is going to improve the situation of resources available to field workers…

  4. Soapsoane – Thanks for that. I agree with you, for the record!

    Mary – You’re right. A lot of those names are very familiar and seem to be riding a merry-go-round. It’s all so depressing if you stop to think about it too much. Generally my job keeps me too busy for that!

    sw2be – It is more than a little baffling to be honest. I just don’t get what the government is actually playing at with all this.

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