Yesterday Ball announced a plan to ‘transform’ social work and inject £58 million into the system. This came as the government responded to Laming’s report following the ‘Baby P’ tragedy. Although actually it isn’t about transforming social work – it is about transforming children’s social work.
I want to look at what he has proposed though. And I apologise in advance for any possible cynicism.
Under the proposals:
* 200 university places will be created to enable graduates to convert to social work.
Maybe I’m missing something here but there is already a Masters Degree for those who have graduated in other subjects – why, I’m a Philosophy graduate myself and somehow I managed to find myself on a ‘conversion’ course 10 years ago. How exactly will this be different from the current Masters which accepts graduates of other disciplines? Maybe a one year instead of a two year course similar to a PGCE? That would hardly be a positive move. I am plain confused by this.
* A recruitment campaign will be launched to tempt back social workers who have left the profession.
Well, we knew this was coming and all I can say is ‘good luck’ to them. Although to be fair, I think a ‘refresher’ course for those that have been away from the profession for a few years is not a bad thing. I left the country for two years and went immediately back into a statutory team where a refresher would actually have been very useful.
* A newly-qualified social worker support programme will be launched for all new practitioners joining statutory and voluntary services this September.
I’m glad that this is covering voluntary organisations as well as statutory. Honestly, I think the year should be linked to the professional qualification to be honest and that you shouldn’t actually be a registered social worker until after this year.
* A new practice-based masters degree in social work will start in early 2011 so practitioners can continue to develop.
Again, I thought these were already up and running through the post-qualification scheme which can be combined to achieve a Masters qualification. So it’s hardly new.
* A new advanced social work professional status programme will be launched to help experienced social workers stay on the front line.
I refer to my previous point. How is this different from the current PQ framework with its Specialist Social Worker, Higher Specialist Social Worker and Advanced Specialist Higher (or whatever it’s called) system which is supposed to run up to Masters degrees.
So well done for achieving so little, Balls. Although I’m hardly surprised. Oh wait, I forgot. There’s some more checking and balancing and proposed changes to the ICS (IT) system.
Balls said: “We are going to make the ICS system less clunky. There is too much of a divide between management and frontline social work. Managers need to spend more time on the front line supporting social workers rather than too much about process and bureaucracy.”
Thanks Balls. What about putting in managers that actually are registered social workers too. And how was the process and bureaucracy created in the first place? I’d venture a guess that it’s due to the obsession with performance indicators in inspections of local government – the monitoring of councils is all by targets and there is little evidence of any monitoring of quality in any areas other than those that can be placed into some kind of ‘target figure’. A number rarely tells a story of a piece of good work done. Exceptional work can be done outside ‘target’ time frames so it would count quantitively against a council when the actual face to face work might be of a great quality. There is no allowance for this in local government.
The Social Work Task Force also published an interim report yesterday on its findings as reported in Community Care.
In its interim findings, submitted to children’s secretary Ed Balls today, the Task Force reported that social workers were “demoralised” by media vilification, causing them to leave their jobs.
Well, yes, and Balls has hardly done much to help that, has he? He has appointed an Agony Aunt onto the Task Force at the expense of people who actually know about the job. At the same time as urging ‘the best’ graduates to go into social work – knowing what this says about the people already working in the profession.
Mark Easton in the BBC’s blog writes about this stating that
The word that some would say is missing from today’s proposals is “trust”. The plans suggest ministers do not have real confidence in social workers to do their job. Every scandal is seen as evidence that the public servants employed to protect vulnerable children are failing. The response is greater control from the centre.
And he has a good point. Balls has clearly no faith at all in the current work force and hardly does anything to help morale – in fact – I’d say he has an adverse effect. After all, let’s see how the Daily Mail interprets the statements made yesterday – a lovely helpful headline –
That kind of thing really helps with morale, you know.
And just on another comment that I couldn’t let pass and this is from the Mail report
Tory children’s spokesman Tim Loughton said: ‘Ministers cannot hope to entice more social workers back into the profession unless they fix the problems that originally drove them out.’
Sorry? SORRY?? Do the Tories not realise the responsibility that THEY hold for creating the issues as well? These underlying problems and difficulties did not only appear since 1997. They were deep-seated through the Conservative government but would I’d really like to know is what they would propose positively.
What I do think is needed is a more substantial change if it is going to make a difference and more concentration on what is and has gone wrong which can only be done by speaking directly to staff who are currently working in the field.
Apparently the Task Force is looking to appoint some more front line workers for a ‘reference’ group – I know that at least when I find an application form, I’d be more than happy to apply to join it and would encourage others to do so – and the Social Work Blog writes on the same issue, urging social workers to take action in making sure our voices are heard this time. If we aren’t heard, I fear to think where these proposals and mishmashing by central government will be leading us.
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