BASW vs College of Social Work


It was with more than a little weariness that I read in Community Care that BASW (British Association of Social Workers) may be about to launch their own ‘rival’ College of Social Work having been in dispute and frozen out of the ‘official’ discussions with the embryonic ‘College of Social Work’.

My first response was sheer exasperation. I’m a member of BASW. I pay a not insignificant amount of money to them annually for that privilege and I have a generally warm feeling towards them (I wouldn’t be a member otherwise!). I don’t see them as an alternative to a union although I would actually prefer it if they were. I like the idea of a more specialist union but I’m also a member of Unison, the public sector trade union and I also pay them a not insignificant amount of money for the privilege.

A little disclosure before I continue. I’m a little miffed with Unison currently. I know their reps must be incredibly busy as jobs are going and people are being asked to take salary cuts but I’ve been trying to contact my branch officers for weeks about something at work that affects a few people – phone calls, messages, emails and haven’t even had the courtesy of a response. I must have paid them thousands of pounds over the years, have never asked for any assistance before and honestly, on the scale of things, this is a fairly minor matter and have been wholly and completely ignored. Harumph to Unison but you know, I’ll of course, keep paying. And paying.

But back to BASW and the College. BASW it seems are being steamrollered by the College and are trying to put up a fight in the form of an ‘alternate college’ plan.  It is ironic seeing as BASW were so forceful in pushing for the existence of a College of Social Work in the first place.

BASW, it seems are unhappy with the deal that has been made between the College and Unison –

Under the deal, Unison will provide employee representation services to college members and the college will provide professional advice services to social workers who are Unison members.

First, I welcomed this potential merger but I do see an issue if BASW are going to be frozen out of the process.

As a lay-person, I see the potential role for a College of Social Work to be almost an exact equivalent of the services that BASW provides apart from having a statutory footing and the addition of trade union functions via Unison. It seems more than a little uncouth to push BASW out of the process.

I know that BASW don’t have a large membership base. It can seem almost cliquey at times but as a newly qualified social worker with limited money, if I had to choose between union membership and the membership of a professional body, I would go with the union membership every time just as a means of self-preservation.

That is what BASW have to face up to.

The problem is that they seem to have taken some kind of decision to split off from the process of establishing the College of Social Work. Whether they are right or wrong (and I don’t necessarily think they are wrong) there is a big problem of perception about being seen as ‘disruptive’ to the process. I can see how they might feel betrayed by the process of these different interest groups vying to positions of power. Retrospectively, I think they should have been given the lead role in the establishment of a College rather than SCIE (Social Care Institute of Excellence) but that’s all in the past now.

I say this with a heavy heart, but I’m not sure BASW can exist as an independent ‘College’ and I am not convinced that their branching off will be successful in the long run. I would have prefered a BASW-led college but I think we are now too far down the ‘other’ path.

My ‘perfect’ solution would have been some kind of mass consolidation of BASW, the College and Unison (or trade union functions by another means) but that looks nigh on impossible now.

The problem is that there are few enough social workers who are engaged with the process of actively wanting to be involved in these organisations as it is.  All these bickerings will no doubt put many people off membership of ANY of the organisations. You don’t want to ‘pick the wrong one’.

These rumblings leave a nasty taste in ones mouth and may be a disincentive for people in the social work profession to become involved.

Which will lead to the same people who like ‘being on committees’ and being at the head of things – mostly managers who can give themselves time off work for these things or retired/independent members – to run the same organisations and to claim to be speaking for ‘front line social workers’ when, in fact, none of them do because the ethereal ‘front line social workers’ are way too busy working to be bothering themselves with who represents them!

8 thoughts on “BASW vs College of Social Work

  1. Pingback: BASW vs College of Social Work - Fighting Monsters - Member blogs - Social Work Blog - Carespace from Community Care

  2. My thoughts exactly! I am seriously wondering whether to cancel my membership to BASW; they are not representing me with their wrangling and falling outs and it seems the college will eventually fulfil all the same functions, with the addition of formally accredited training. It appears that by joining Unison when I finally start work, I will also get reduced membership of the college and so sadly, I am questioning what value there will be in me remaining a BASW member too.
    I am sad though that both organisations claim to be representing the profession and ‘for social workers led by social workers’, yet neither actually seem to be consulting us in their plans and decisions.

  3. I find this post very interesting. I live in Canada. Social work registration is done on a provincial basis. In Alberta, we have a College of Social Work. Their role is to regulate the use of the term social work (and variations) and those in the social work role (we have to be registered, we have to maintain our registration, to do so we must have so many continuing competency hours of various types). There is no one “social work” union. Many social workers are unionized, depending on their employer. The provincial employees (child welfare, income support, etc.) are under the Alberta Union of Public Employees. Those working in hospitals, home care and other bits of the Alberta health services are covered by the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (wherein you might as well be a member ‘cuz you’re paying the dues anyways). Some social workers in group homes are covered by (of all things) the Commercial and Food Workers (union/association/whatever). So I get to spend money at the college (reimbursed, taxable by my employer) and the union. The union also represents people like pharmacists, lab techs, etc. etc. Basically all the non-medical professional or para-professional staff. The AUPE takes care of our administration, food services, security, etc. stuff. And of course the nurses have their own union.

  4. Hi! I would urge you to hang on in with BASW for a while. As you know, I work for BASW and there will be some good news about services we can offer very soon! We think we will become the ‘must have’ membership rather than Union or present College. In BASW we are not wrangling or falling out (and in fact we have cordial relations with Unison too) – we are solid and many of our members are solidly behind us as we want a new College to be truly representative and made up of social workers for whom it is easy to engage and participate and influence. We’ve done a good job speaking up for social work in recent months in the media and with policy formers, and have been running CPD events and a seminar series which have proved very popular so please stay with us! See our website http://www.basw.co.uk for more info.

  5. Hi Ruth,
    Thanks – and I’m not going anywhere for the moment.. I’m willing to wait and see after all, there isn’t much choice. I just really do wish there had been more convergence as it is becoming quite confusing.

  6. Pingback: The Two Colleges | Fighting Monsters

  7. Pingback: The Two Colleges continued – BASW, SCIE and the Nascent College | Fighting Monsters

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