Oh dear. I suppose he’s trying to claw back any credibility he might once of had. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families writes a blatheringly sympathetic piece in the Guardian about how much he supports social workers.
Nice job, Ed. But why not write the same type of piece in The Sun, huh? By writing in the Guardian, you are hardly setting the cat among the pigeons. Perhaps your stooge, Deirdre Saunders, is supposed to be doing that – while advising teens on sex-related problems, she was appointed to the Social Work Task Force to advise the government how to ‘fix’ social work.
What about a radical idea of social workers who have experience actually doing the job, leading the way.
Social Work, is and will always be a political football – it is an aspect of society that often wants to be forgotten and those who are doing the work as easy to pinpoint and criticise. Not that I’m adverse to criticism – it can be rightly delivered and indeed, there is no shortage of positive initiatives that can be taken to both promote social work education (and more funding for research as well, in my humble opinion – because a broad base of research knowledge is vital to promote the profession away from local and national government targets which can consume the actual nature of the job and the profession itself).
I never became a social worker to be loved, or even respected. Honestly, I don’t expect that. I want to do the job in my most effective way and to deliver services that I would want if I were in the situation to need them. That’s how I play things out in my mind anyway. I think – what would I want, for myself or for my family – if I were sitting on the other side of the room, or the telephone, speaking to a social worker. It’s pretty basic as far as empathy goes, but I like to think it works. It is often not my training and my competence that restricts this but rather over-management and micro-management – and management by targets that restricts this. Fear of risk and managing risk out of situations.
So back to Ed. Ed Balls, who firstly took all the political ‘credit’ to be gained by remarking how poorly trained social workers are, how our ranks can be swelled by ‘lawyers and teachers’ who can qualify at super-fast speeds, who seems oblivious to the fact that it is possible to qualify already with a post-graduate degree in social work – perhaps he should actually learn a little what the job actually involves and about what the training and post-qualification training involves.
Unfortunately, he has lost any semblance of credibility by his lack of understanding of social work. And meanwhile, silence from the Health Secretary who probably doesn’t even know he is responsible for the decisions made regarding adult social work.
It can be more than disheartening to have such obviously insincere politicians making these insincere proclamations to sell the profession to the general public. I wonder if he could make a little more effort though at repairing some of the damage with professionals in question.
Nothing that Balls has been done has been supportive. There was a scheduled review of social work anyway, which transformed into the Task Force – but as long as a newspaper agony aunt as a place on the Task Force, it remains something of a mockery of a process – even though some of the interim reports have had some valid points, it is hard to get away from the fact that he saw the need to appoint someone with absolutely no background knowledge of social work – a journalist from The Sun, no less, into the process.
I’m sure that got him some political brownie points with the red-top journalists. Congratulations, Ball.
I think the issues are broader than this though – a government who thinks it can write to an agony aunt for the solution to the profession’s poor performances? Really? The GSCC is probably as much of the problem judging by it’s own poor record. Who it invites to its over-priced conference is almost an irrelevance although not quite because it makes a statement of condoning the appointment – but the GSCC is virtually devoid of any front-line practising social workers who remember what it is like to work in the field in any case.
They can sit in their no-doubt-sparkling offices in the nicer parts of town and debate and discuss at their over-priced conferences as much as they like but can probably hardly remember any real social work that is done and that needs to be done.
So back to Ed’s article in the Guardian. He writes
I was asked in an interview at the beginning of the year what achievement I would most like to be able to recall from 2009. I said that I wanted above all for social workers to feel the hugely difficult job they do is better understood, and that their professionalism is properly supported and challenged to deliver the highest possible practice standards.
My wish for 2009 is that Ed Balls has a better understanding of social work himself.
My wish is that the target-based work is appraised in relation to the professional standards and the worthlessness of some of these false targets is recognised so that time can be released to do the frontline ground work that needs to be done.
My wish is that the GSCC and the overly complicated post-qualification routes that seem to be a mashed up to create money for the universities providing them are properly regulated and approved so that learning and training can be both mandatory but also useful.
My wish is that people who care about the profession are given a voice in its development although more and more I have a feeling that this needs to be created ground-up.
My wish is to be given some flexibility within my role to work on prevention rather than solely on patching up already distressed situations.
Social Work should not need to simply react to situations but should and could be more proactive.
The radical roots of the 70s have been diluted in figures and numbers and targets. It is easy to politicise these issues but we are simply reaping the seeds of Thatcherism.