I am more than a little frustrated that BASW (British Association of Social Workers) and the College of Social Work (in its current interim state) haven’t been able to thrash out their problems.
I’ve mentioned the background to this before and it’s certainly worth, if you are interested, reading through a long and involved thread on CareSpace – a Community Care discussion board – about the process. It goes into a fair bit of history and detail.
As a battling Front Line Footsoldier or actually more accurately a conscientious objector, to say I feel frustrated is an understatement – or rather, I feel frustrated when I have time to remember that this battle is happening. Most of the time, I’m just getting on with my work.
I have to despair of the inability of the parties to actually sit around a table. Yes, the whole momentum for setting up a College came from BASW and they feel they have been unfairly frozen out but they aren’t really doing themselves any favours outside their own goldfish bowl world at the moment.
I’m a member of BASW and I joined the Interim College as a ‘founder pre-member’. I’m curious by my nature and I strongly believe that social work needs firm representation. I am not going to jump one way or the other and my absolute ideal outcome is convergence so that there are not two different bodies.
I have been and remain a strong advocate for BASW. I’ve often extolled their collective virtues. It can seem a little insular at times though but I think that it has been so much more effective over the past few years. I am just not sure this is the right fight because it reflects badly on an organisation and by extension, the profession, that needs to show a more united front.
I am baffled by the current BASW position quite honestly. An organisation that claims to be member-led seems to be going about things in a strange way.
Yes, there was a referendum last year. I didn’t vote in it even though I was eligible because quite honestly, I didn’t understand the issues. I wanted convergence. Yes, I know that pride was damaged when SCIE rather than BASW were asked to lead on the ‘official’ setting up of the College but I suppose it was felt that BASW membership was too narrow and it would not ‘bring’ enough members. That’s, I suspect, where the link with Unison came from. It is the link with Unison which seems to have outraged BASW as they felt they were not fully consulted about this. I’m a member of Unison too, by the way, and with all my griping about them, they are coming into their own in the current climate of austerity. I am very glad to be a union member in general and a Unison member in particular.
The Council of BASW seem to have decided that the referendum last year (which achieved an overwhelming majority of ‘yes’ votes but the vote was for a British College and the turnout was roughly 5000 out of 13000 members – I assume it wasn’t only English members who voted) gave them a mandate to ‘go it alone’ and declare themselves a ‘College of Social Work’ for England only.
I’m left befuddled. I don’t quite want to walk away from BASW at this point because I do think they have a role but I don’t know how else to make my voice heard to them about the dissatisfaction that I’m feeling in the way that they have conducted themselves without asking the membership specifically on this point.
Currently, and certainly among people who have contacted me personally, either in work because they know I am a member (I’d been trying to recruit people to join in the past) or socially as I have some friends who are social workers and social work students, are without exception laughing at BASW and feel that the organisation is responsible for making the profession a laughing stock. As if we needed that
I’m sure the Interim College acted improperly by not consulting BASW more openly about the Unison deal. I’m also sure that the Interim College should have focussed on things that BASW doesn’t do rather than trying to create an equivalent but separate organisation or cornering BASW into convergence on their own terms.
But in my opinion (and I come from a view of being generally very positive about BASW) the SCIE College is winning the ‘battle for hearts and minds’ on the PR front.
BASW’s press releases strike one as tetchy and showing an unnecessary over-reliance on the legality of the name of the ‘College of Social Work’.
As the decision to ‘go it alone’ was not seemingly taken by the referendum – not least because the context for the referendum was not replicated when the action was taken – I thought I’d find out who did make this decision on my behalf, as a paying member of BASW.
They are :
Fran Fuller – Chair
Lesley McDowell – Vice Chair and Chair of Policy, Ethics and Human Rights Committee
Ronnie Barnes – Chair Finance & Human Resources Committee
Dave Harrop – England Committee
Joan Franklin – England Committee
Gerry Madden – Northern Ireland Committee
Jenni Rice – Northern Ireland Committee
Graeme Rizza – Scotland Committee
John McGowan – Scotland Committee
Keith Drury – Wales Committee
Nick Lovell – Wales Committee
Beverley Prevatt Goldstein
15 people to make a decision on the setting up of College of Social Work that is only going to be operating as such in England as that is the remit from the Social Work Taskforce. On that basis, shall we discount those who don’t practice in England as surely they wouldn’t vote on this issue that affects English members.
It’s our own, social worky ‘West Lothian question’.
So remove the Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales Committee members.
We are left with seven but it is presumptuous for me to assume that all the remaining members are English. So I looked on the GSCC register. And the SSSC register and the Care Register of Wales and the NISCC. (Wow, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could search them all simultaneously).
Julia Wassell and Fran Fuller are registered in England. Ronnie Barnes and Matt McGregor are registered in Scotland. There are two Lesley McDowells registered in Northern Ireland (and none in England, Scotland or Wales so I’m assuming she is one of the two in NI).
I couldn’t find James Birchall or Beverley Prevatt Goldstein on any of the registers but I’ll assume that was just my poor searching and misspelling of names and getting confused between my searching of the different registers at 6am!
At best, that would give us between four and six people on the Council who would be primarily interested in English matters.
Just for the record, I’m no happier about some of the choices made to the interim board regarding representatives but, and this is a big but, they ARE an interim board. The SCIE College doesn’t actually exist yet, where BASW has a constitution and democratic process.
I completely understand why BASW felt they had to do something and couldn’t wait until the AGM in May but I think some kind of EGM might have been called for.
This feels like an all-out attack on BASW but I don’t want it to be. I just want a wider debate and understanding of the needs of the social work profession – not just BASW members – and it is crucially important to understand that BASW does not represent the majority of British or English Social Workers.
While BASW has expertise in all the areas the College wishes to promote and provide and perhaps it should have led on the setting up of the College – it wasn’t chosen and shouldn’t over-play the status that it has.
BASW after all, had many years in which to demonstrate that it was able to represent all social workers and still has a relatively small membership.
Personally, I think they should accept the mediation offer – although it means egg on their and our collective faces rather than continue to alienable and gripe about the rights to the name of ‘College of Social Work’.
As for the Interim Board, they’ve offered independent mediation. I am sure there are lots of things they should have done differently in respect to BASW but surely mediation is the place to thrash it out, rather than increasingly bitter press releases.
- The Two Colleges (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
- BASW vs College of Social Work (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)
- A house divided: social work colleges split loyalties (guardian.co.uk)
- Social workers to get new professional body – or maybe two (guardian.co.uk)