Fast-track Social Work

Ed Balls

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Yesterday, Ed Balls announced a plan to fast-track other ‘professionals’ like lawyers, teachers and police officers into social work on a one year ‘scheme’.

He says that this scheme – which will attract a £15,000 payment to those who take up the offer – would appeal to those who might be put off by a three year degree.

I wonder how much he knows about social work itself though outside his departmental bubble. Ten years ago, I took a two year postgraduate Masters course – the kind of which exist currently – and alongside me on my course were former teachers, police officers and even (believe it or not!) a clinical psychologist. Sure, we didn’t get £15,000 but we did two placements alongside the academic training.

I wonder how it will be compressed into one year. My understanding is that it will be ‘on the job’ type training. Perhaps he hasn’t learnt from the difficulties universities are having at the moment in finding placements.

Maybe I’m just too cynical but I have to wonder if Balls is even aware of the post-graduate route to train as a social worker. He seems completely oblivious to its existence – from his comments that social workers should be trained to post-graduate level (a good proportion already are, Balls!) to his comments that some professionals wouldn’t want to leave work to take a three year unpaid degree (the Masters attracts more funding and it’s only two years so no lawyer/teacher etc would be taking the three year route anyway!).

For all that, I don’t want to be too cynical. It isn’t Ed’s fault he is so ignorant but the idea behind it – namely to encourage people to seek a second career in social work – isn’t a bad one. I am just confused as to how the necessary skills can be compressed into one year – after all, as practitioners, they will still need the same knowledge and experience.

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10 thoughts on “Fast-track Social Work

  1. I agree with your cynicism and concern! If possible, introduce Mr Balls to the 10 core competencies of social work professionals ( and explain how the importance of professional education as the way to acquire them. Your post speaks to the danger of incompetence and “watering down” the profession of social work.

    • Hi Leslie – that’s exactly it that he seems to think of it as a quick-fix and is diluting the theoretical bases of the profession.

  2. I find it hard to believe any lawyer would actually consider taking such a massive pay cut to become a social worker, to be honest. (teachers too, come to think of it!)
    Re Mr Balls, well, I more or less gave up on him ages ago… He hasn’t got a clue about social work, the training, the profession, the work or the stresses- and what’s more, he doesn’t want to know either. If he did, he’d know this is a disaster waiting to happen- if social workers who have trained for two or three years are so often described by him as incompetent, how does he expect those trained for just one to be any better?

  3. I for one welcome Mr. Balls idea if it is to be well constructed and thought out about who it attracts. I am a professional youth worker (BA Hons) and would very much like to retrain into Social work if a one year opportunity existed. My degree had many parallles to my wifes Social Work degree, excluding Law, and i feel one year would be more suitable for the likes of my profession rather than embarking on a 2yr Masters program (Mainly for financial considerations in my case!)

    • I think your case is a little different because there is an overlap – but someone trained as a lawyer wouldn’t necessarily have the same experience..

  4. Balls’ idea is just spin: smoke and mirrors to be seen addressing the problem rather than actually doing so. The general public may be briefly fooled whilst he moves onto something else.

  5. Another perfect example to how little people know about social work, and how “society” wants to push it aside and pretend it’s not really there, like you said in your comment to my post.

    It would be nice if at least politicians could try to stay informed. I’m not that informed when it comes to the UK and social politics over there so I’m not familiar with this Mr. Balls. But your comment “It isn’t Ed’s fault he is so ignorant” still made me smile. 😉

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