Fast tracking Mental Health Social Work


First they came for the children and families social workers..

Last year, the government announced the shiny ‘Frontline’ scheme which was designed to fast-track ‘elite’ graduates into child protection jobs in ‘tough’ areas and push these sparkly bright graduates into ‘leadership’ roles. At the time, I moved this blog out of retirement specifically to challenge the processes, thinking and mostly the lack of consultation and involvement of children and families social workers – or indeed any social workers – when this scheme was developed. I’ve written about it here.

I spoke out and spoke up as best I could because I think these ‘fast track’ schemes are a folly and are attempts at solving the wrong problems. I lost that battle because it was the government doing what the government wanted to do. Yes, those in favour say, this is just about another route in to social work – perhaps I’m simple-minded, not being an Oxbridge graduate and all, but I thought we already  had the post-graduate route in to social work training (Masters qualification route). We even had a specialist child-focused route in to social work (Step Up to Social Work – which I’m also not a massive fan of, incidentally) but no, this would be different because this would fast-track even more and focus even more. So it would take all the worst parts and combine them.

This morning, the Independent reports that the IPPR (the same think tank of policy bods who haven’t got a clue about what social work actually looks like) are presenting a lovely report to Norman Lamb about encouraging graduates to move into mental health social work and this week ‘Think Ahead’ will be launched. Actually just typing that causes a deep nausea in my stomach and makes me shake with rage. ‘Think Ahead’ – that’s nice.

This is what the Independent says

Just 10 Oxbridge graduates studied for a social work master’s degree in 2011-12, compared with 10 per cent of the entire cohort applying for Teach First, the successful graduate teacher training programme. Despite the high skills required and difficulty of adult social work, very few top-flight students regard it as a prestigious job, the IPPR report says.

So that’s it, guys. Quality is judged by whether you are an Oxbridge graduate or not. Apart from the nausea, I have to say the tears are coming now. There are fantastic mental health social workers out there. There are fantastic mental health social workers coming through. This is a kick in the teeth of the highest degree. If we didn’t go to Oxbridge, clearly we aren’t good enough. Is there so little understanding that the issue is not about new entrants into mental health social work but the pulling apart of mental health social work so that there aren’t any jobs anymore. Surely we should be focussing on THAT. There is no shortage of newly qualified social workers who are very skilled who want to work in mental health. Maybe pushing some of the money and support into building strong post qualification frameworks to support them might be a better idea than pulling in people who don’t really have a clue what social work actually is.

 

Government endorsed ageism

I worked in an older adults mental health team. It is vital that I had a good understanding of adult social work as well as mental health social work. Lamb’s comment sticks in my stomach.

Mr Lamb said last night he was “very enthusiastic” about Think Ahead. “We are looking for people who can commit to do something to make a difference to young people with mental health problems, particularly people in their late teens and early twenties,” he said.

See, as far as Lamb is concerned, his focus is on making a different to YOUNG PEOPLE. Does he even know what mental health social work is or is he trying to develop a programme which is a mix between Frontline and Think First because, you know, Frontline blatantly isn’t focusing on anything other than child protection social work. This is evidence of the clear folly of building social work into specialist silos. This pot is where Mental Health goes. This pot is where Child Protection goes. We’ll train you as a ‘specialist’ social worker – whoops, what do we do if a child has mental health needs? Heaven forbid someone has dementia and that needs specialist social work input. Has there been ANY thought about it because it doesn’t look like it. I’d like to know from Lamb how many practising social workers they spoke to and where those people work – as well as their names – as they clearly don’t have a clue what happens in mental health social work nor what is happening now as local authorities pull their social workers out of mental health trusts. And that is happening all over the country.

What is social work?

According to the Independent article

The IPPR research shows that nearly 50 per cent of local authorities have problems recruiting high-quality adult social workers.

Well, I, for one, can’t wait to see the figures behind that research and there seems to be some confusion between adult social work and mental health social work which are not actually the same thing but I doubt the IPPR Oxbridge PPE graduates realise that. We are increasingly seeing a fragmentation of social work into discrete areas – you are a child protection social work or a mental health social worker etc. This is not helpful as the thing that makes the profession cohesive is our broad generic base. If we look at what social work is, it’s about a value base, an emphasis on reflection and social justice, a key understanding of how pieces fit together which are beyond labelling definitions and a focus on strengths-based models of working with people using specific approaches. This is beyond child protection processes or care management processes and it is what makes the profession one. I was disappointed to see one of the Chief Social Workers (for children and families) ask why genericism was important on twitter this morning when nurses had specialist training. What an utter heart-sink moment that was. If we have to explain why genericism is important to the fundamental definitions of social work to someone who defines themselves as a government appointment social work ‘leader’, I’m afraid we, as social workers are losing the battle. It is important that as social workers – social work practitioners, students, academics and social workers internationally, pull these definitions back from our government which is trying to define us by the processes that they ask us to do. We are far, far more than our tasks and that is why generic qualification is necessary and important. We need the space to understand beyond our specialisms and to grow and explore our values – because it is social work values that make social workers, not knowledge of specific child protection processes.

 

Choosing your team

Then the Independent goes on to say

The Think Ahead scheme will run as a social enterprise and operate rigorous two-year courses, starting in September 2015, for the “best and brightest” who could bring leadership to the profession. The board of the social enterprise will include Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, and Dame Carol Black, the chairman of the Nuffield Trust and an adviser to the Government on health and social work. Mr Lamb also consulted Alastair Campbell, who has written extensively about his personal struggle with depression, on creating the programme.

And we get to the point. These are going to be the leaders and not the practitioners. They are not remotely interested in promoting good practice in mental health social work but producing a fast track leadership programme for privileged people who wouldn’t want to dirty their hands with actual social work. None of those people mentioned, the so-called ‘great and the good’ who are going to be on the board of this social enterprise are social workers. NONE OF THEM. Can we stop and think about that. Can we think about another profession that the government would treat with so little respect? We saw Ed Balls consult an agony aunt from the Sun to decide where social work should go after Peter Connolly’s tragic death. Now Lamb is no better in asking Campbell. This is a mess and it’s a government promoted mess. But he doesn’t need to bring social workers along with him because he is going to grow his own social work leaders who look like him, went to Oxbridge and don’t need to have any understanding of mental health social work. It makes me sick to my stomach and it’s difficult for me to even read but I’ll go on.

 

Kicking the profession while you’re at it

Now this bit made me laugh.

The new IPPR report says that “more than 90 per cent of directors of adult social services believe more needs to be done to attract the highest possible quality candidates into the social work profession”. Directors believe many job applicants lack analytical ability and intellectual capacity, awareness of evidence, practical experience of social work, and leadership skills.

The Director of Adult Services in the local authority I worked in didn’t actually realise that we, the mental health social workers which he had seconded into our mental health trust, were employed by him. He certainly wouldn’t have a clue what we did on a day to day basis or how skilled we were. And if he had said we lacked analytical ability and intellectual capacity, well, I’d have asked him (but he wasn’t remotely interested in what we did) to come out on a Mental Health Act Assessment with me. Does the government realise how insulting all this is? I think it does. They want to divide and rule and tell us how rubbish we are so we need to fling some Oxbridge graduates into the mix. Does Lamb or the IPPR even KNOW the difference between adult social work and mental health social work? Do they know that most Directors of Adult Social Services don’t know who their mental health social workers are because they are mostly seconded out? It sounds like pure ignorance of the sector to me. It seems like the government have built a solution without actually knowing or analysing the problem and certainly without an understanding of mental health social work.

And then the article says

Demand for adult social workers is high: a third of all families includes someone who is mentally ill, while one in four people will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime. In 2010, more than 1.25 million people used specialist NHS mental health services.

Ha ha. Ha ha. Seriously. Does the writer of this article actually know that these services have been slashed to pieces. Yes, more people need mental health social work  but there is less money and far, far fewer social workers delivering social work in Mental Health Trusts than there was in 2010. This makes a mockery of those of us who know how hard the cuts have hit.

 

Then we have the final kick in the teeth

Jonathan Clifton, senior research fellow at IPPR, said: “As the number of people diagnosed with mental ill-health increases, there is a moral imperative to develop effective services that can support each of them.

“Too many people can be let down when things go wrong, causing distress and putting vulnerable people at risk. A fast-track programme like Think Ahead could be one step on the journey towards changing this.”

Oh, dear, Jonathan Clifton, you really are a bit thick and haven’t done your research very well if you are the best they can do with a ‘senior research fellow’. The issue isn’t the quality of support and the fast track programmes. The issue is mental health services have been utterly decimated by this government and there isn’t money left to pay those who did the job well. I know because I left when we went through cuts which actively harmed people who used the service. Yes, vulnerable people are at risk but they are at risk because of people like Lamb cutting mental health services and support  – not because there aren’t people coming into the profession.

 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

This scheme is ill-thought out, ignorant and insulting. It shows no understanding or insight into mental health services or social work services. The quotations are muddled, the thinking is illogical. As social workers who are committed to driving the profession and most importantly supporting and advocating for people who use social work services, we need to shout out and long about these destructive programmes and the lack of input that social workers have had into them.

If we want to look at what will ‘save’ mental health social work – I’ll  happily tell Lamb but then, as a social worker, I’m not the kind of person he’d want to consult with – especially as I guess he’d say I lack intellectual and critical rigour and analysis (although I’d like to see him say that to my face). You see, Lamb needs cleverer people than social workers to decide where social work needs to go – clearly. We are too thick and too many of us are plebs for us to be properly informed and consulted. No, it needs a think tank and other professionals to tell us. But if he were to ask me, this is what I’d tell him.

1. Fast track isn’t the answer. Longer, slower track is.

Keep the generic qualifying routes we have. We have postgraduate qualifying routes. What’s wrong with them? THEN, then, we have a robust, compulsory one year additional course supported by employers to get the specialist skills embedded but where this ‘let’s focus on young people’ thing comes from I don’t know. If we are going to build specialisms, please lets have an older adults one too which combines specialist mental health (particularly around dementia and late onset functional mental health needs) and physical disability which often affects older people.

We need more time not less time.

 

2. Consult social workers who are actually doing social work

I know, this is blue sky thinking. Who would think they could change the profession and actually ask the professionals working in the field. What would we know? But it would be nice, wouldn’t it.

3. Listen to people who rely on social work services.

Quick, let’s find ‘one of us’ who has had a mental health difficulty and shove them in the consultation. Ergo Alistair Campbell. No, Mr Lamb. Find someone who is currently using a mental health social workers’ services. Someone who has been detained by one of us. Find someone who is living in poverty and is being supported by a social worker because they don’t have any other support. Of course, have Mr Campbell as well but he may not be representative of all people who use social work services. Show a bit of respect to those who are reliant on these social workers coming through.

4. Drop the leadership strand.

You can’t train new graduates to be leaders without actually doing the job. We would be creating the wrong leaders. Look what the NHS graduate leadership programme does when leaders grow who haven’t had any clinical experience. The focus is on providing good quality social workers so why push them into leadership roles immediately. Leadership has to be earnt.

5. Genericism is important.

I won’t repeat myself but it is what makes social work, social work. We can’t allow others to define it for us. Let’s focus on post qualification training and make that more robust. Let’s push the focus into retaining and supporting good social workers. Let’s emphasis time to reflect and grow rather than jump on fast track scheme. That will improve mental health social work.

21 thoughts on “Fast tracking Mental Health Social Work

  1. Fighting Monsters is, again, “on the money”, as she is always. “Longer and slower”, is most definitely the way to ‘cure’ future mental health social workers. ‘Teach First’ has a disasterous ‘drop out’ rate, after these Russell Group wags have reached their ‘time served’ point, leaving teaching for fresher fields.

    There is nothing to suggest that the ‘Frontline’ debacle will have any greater success at retaining these supposed future ‘leaders’ in social work. Likewise, ‘Think Ahead’ is mired in the same flawed assumptions that the university you attend will afford you a greater insight into the human services professions. It hasn’t shown results in teaching, it is unlikely to bear fruit in child protection or mental health social work.

    If these ‘bright young things’ as set on a career in social work management, let them read for a Masters and follow a tried and tested route into the profession. That is not to say that the current models do not need to be revamped, updated or remodelled. They do! What they do not need is to be devalued by ill-conceived models produced through desktop exercises from non-social work specialists. Gove and Lamb would be better served consulting with social workers and social work academics to find a working solution for social work education fit for the 21st century. However, there is no glory in that, no clamouring for soundbites and no bright and shiny Russell Group students beating the doors down to read for a social workk degree, with the promise of managerial jobs in the near-term.

    Josh McAllister claims his inspiration for for ‘Frontline’ was driven by his mother’s experiences as a social worker, we are yet to know Jonathan Clifton’s motivations. What we do know is that frontline social practitioners have not been involved in the concept of either of these mistakes.

  2. Thank you for your blog, and I am sorry we disagree on the use of fast-track programmes in social work.

    Many of your criticisms are addressed in our report which will be published on the IPPR website on Tuesday – I hope you will see that we have considered these issues when you read it.
    The report is being launched at an event with Norman Lamb. Details about the event are available here: http://www.ippr.org/events/think-ahead-meeting-the-workforce-challenges-in-mental-health-social-work If you would like to come along and put your concerns to Norman Lamb and IPPR then please email events@ippr.org – we are keen to debate these issues.

    Your blog made a number of criticisms and I will try and respond to some of the key ones here.

    We both agree that there are many wider problems around funding for mental health services, the commitment of NHS Trusts to social work, and the way that integrated teams are organised. Of course many of these were beyond the scope of our report. A single programme targeted primarily at recruiting and educating social workers cannot solve all of the problems in this area. Having said that, I do believe that a programme of this kind might help to address the fact that social workers have been marginalised and ‘de-professionalised’ in some integrated teams. Requiring any trusts who take part to commit to providing a supportive learning environment for social workers and to engage in the design and delivery of social work education must surely be a good thing.

    The focus on Oxbridge graduates is inevitably a bit blunt in a newspaper. Of course our report does not claim that having a degree from a particular university will automatically make somebody a good social worker. Any scheme would clearly have to recruit people on the basis of the sort of values and skills you mention. And anybody taking part in the programme would have to demonstrate their abilities in these areas in order to pass. But the recruitment statistics do show that social work is not always seen as an attractive career and it is therefore missing out on potential sources of talent. Given the vital work that social workers do protecting vulnerable people this cannot be right. Our hope is that Think Ahead could open up the pool of potential recruits to the profession. Numerous reports have raised recruitment into social work as being a problem. Most recently a review by Prof Croisedale-Appleby showed many courses have to lower their entry tariff just to fill places.

    Your other main concern was around a programme being targeted towards mental health rather than social work in general. The programme we outline is committed to a unified qualification and incorporates placements in a range of settings (including children and family). Given mental health overlaps with many different client groups and age groups I think it provides a useful lens on many of the wider theories and approaches underpinning social work. But we need to have an honest debate about the extent to which generic social work courses adequately prepare students for the world of work. Some social work students complete their education without having sufficient experience to work in mental health settings – this is a problem raised by employers and our proposal is a direct response to that problem. It is also important not to overplay the extent to which current courses are generic. If a student on an MA course does their placement in a women’s refuge, for example, then they already come out with a specialism in domestic violence.

    In terms of the research process, we consulted many people within the profession over the last 8 months and tried to incorporate their feedback into the programme design. The project had a steering group including representatives from the College of Social Work, BASW, ADASS, the Department of Health, The Chief Social Workers for Adults, JUC-SWEC and APSW, among others. We have run meetings and focus groups with at least 200 people from the profession (although not all of them would agree with our recommendations – and we try to reflect the points of debate in our report).

    Finally, I agree that there is lots that could be done on post qualification routes and CPD. I don’t think that excludes also looking at recruitment and education – it is possible to do both!

    Jonathan Clifton, IPPR

    • Mr C, I note that your specialism is Education with a subspecialisation of advising government, how does this skill you to reinvigorate mental health social work. You claim consultation with 200 people, how many were frontline mental health practitioners and how many of them were social workers. Have you consulted with service users, their voices are crucial to any redevelopment, if social work ethics and standards are to be followed.

      How many of your 200 were politicians and from that proportion, from which hue were they enticed? Your list of representatives is very ‘top’ heavy, indicating that their exposure to the ‘coalface’ will be less than current. If there is a problem in mental health social work, and I am not sure the problems demand this ridiculous overhaul, it is overseen by some of those with whom you have consorted.

      You suggest that “…recruitment statistics do show that social work is not always seen as an attractive career and it is therefore missing out on potential sources of talent.” Who are the population to whom social work does not appear an attractive career? Because the many social work colleagues I know think of it as a very attractive career, spoiled only by the meddling of ill-informed politicians and senior research fellows. I fear that you have over-egged the comments you received from those who a disconnected from frontline practitioners.

      Do my comments ring with assumption, I’m sure they do, but no more that your comments and the Indy article.

  3. Names of individuals you consulted please, Mr Clifton. Seriously your lack of knowledge shines through like a beacon but thanks for responding. As for your ‘event’ – thanks but it’s full so I don’t think I’d be welcome.

    I find it incredible where you find you think you understand mental health social work if this is what your solution was but you know and I know that you were asked to roll out ‘frontline’ rather than actually look at the challenges of mental health social work as the issues are completely different.

    For an ‘researcher’ you haven’t really researched very much. What experience do YOU have of mental health social work? You know what, social workers haven’t been marginalised. They are highly respected when they are in integrated teams but the FUNDING has withdrawn them. Of course, your salary is tied up in this and you have no interest in the profession – short of ripping it to shreds. It geniunely breaks my heart that you are killing my profession and are no part of it. Who exactly did you consult? Please name which social workers contributed to killing my profession – which I love – because I’d like to know.

    And don’t give me the Croisdale-Appleby – he advocated GENERIC qualification not your mealy mouthed specialist nonsense. I know you think I’m clearly far too stupid to be a social worker. I’m not an oxbridge graduate but I do have a decent degree and I’m not an idiot. I see what you are doing and you have no interest in this. It’s a job for you but it’s my life and what I care about.

    200 people? Give me individual names and why they want to destroy the profession. Where was MY opportunity to join one of your focus groups. I’d love to explain in person why you have been duped (well, you haven’t cos you are being paid) by the government.

    You sound ridiculous in that article in the Independnet by the way because it makes it sound like it’s a problem of social work that there isn’t access to social workers. It isn’t. There are NO JOBS. Mental Health Trusts are removing social workers. I wish you had actually listened. I wish you cared. As for your event, all nice but I can’t sign up cos it’s full – so more lip service. Very classy.

  4. Oh and where exactly did you get your data about difficulty in recruiting to adult services? Is it adult services or mental health services because you seem very confused. Recruitment into the profession isn’t the issue. We have postgrad routes in and why not wait for Croisdale-Appleby and look at all entry routes via postgrad. The why is because, like Frontline, this is intended to create a little social enterprise model and remove control from universities to develop training programmes and agendas and privatise social work education so it turns out Norman Lamb mini-mes.

    Why not use this money to create proper post-qualifying training. Why not use it to retain social workers who are doing excellent jobs. No, we need new sparkly programmes which pump think tanks full of money. It is utterly, utterly depressing.

  5. Totally agree with blog. This is Tory elitism supported by power crazed liberals.

    If the government were serious in addressing concerns regarding high quality recruitment, maybe the first step should be retaining the high quality, experienced social workers who are leaving the profession in droves. Also, have they considered whether these high achieving graduates will stay in social work? Why should they, if they are that high achieving they will leave to work for somewhere with more money, less stress, less responsibility, and less of a blame culture. Many mental health social workers work in multi-disciplinary teams in nhs establishments, where the medical model rules and are often treated like second class citizens.

  6. Also why are we spending all this money on training and recruitment, when there are vulnerable people in the community who are not able to have the support they require due to cuts to services. There are reducing resources, including staff who are highly stressed and overworked, which means that those who need the services are not getting them. What are these new social workers going to do, be gatekeepers for ever dwindling resources?

  7. If the mental health team where I am based on placement actually allowed newly qualified social workers to apply for jobs then they would be overwhelmed by applicants from the 60 plus local newly qualified graduates this year. In fact I am actually based in a team where there are only specialist (senior) social workers, the team is short staffed and everyone here has ridiculous sized case loads. The social workers are stressed and the clients are receiving a poor service. Where is the common sense?

  8. Also the ‘best and the brightest’ students tend to lack the communication skills of those who are not deemed ‘bright’. A first class degree looks great on paper but what does that mean to a client? I know what would be more important to me, warmth, empathy and good listening skills.

  9. Jonathon Clifton, your report is superficial and shallow and lazily applies the template of direct entry / accelerated promotion in circumstances where you simply aren’t qualified to comment on what good work or decent management would look like. I don’t doubt you talked to a lot of people, however, it’s really a pity you’ve quoted the wrong ones and pasted your own opinions over other more valid ones. However, since you work for a think tank, the callowness of your views won’t count against you as long as they support the prevailing political agenda. Your response above to the points made in the blog is just a bit toe curling too and highlights the deficiency I’m afraid. It would take too long to explain to you why. I have no problem with highly qualified graduates being encouraged to come into the profession. (I think I might be one of them: Oxbridge degree, university prize, PhD and an MA is social work which, by the way, was the hardest challenge I have ever faced). I have a huge problem with this scheme which simply seems to be a stick to prod the profession with. How are you going to integrate staff who’ve had an education which as far as I can see, sets out to be antithetical to much of the existing professional ethos? As an officer class? Great! As for citing the views of directors so prominently? Honestly? They’re part of the problem as they’re the ones failing to make the time and space for staff they already employ to have meaningful training opportunities to develop further and don’t you think they should bear some responsibility for it being rather hard to get a social work placement in a CMHT? They run them after all. So, if all your focus groups yielded from them was ‘nothing to do with me Guv’, that gives us the measure of their usefulness. There needs to be a diversity of routes into social work to support a diverse workforce. I know two women I’ve worked with who both started as unqualified care assistants at the same time at a care home 20 years ago. One’s just qualified as a social worker but frankly, she seems like a bit of a slacker compared to her colleague who studied as an ASW alongside me and is currently the head of the CMHT in a small borough. I’d rather work alongside them than a 22 year old out of their depth and itching to be allowed to escape into management. I’ll echo CB’s points: 1, higher quality is likely to emerge from long and slow training; 2. if this isn’t a stunt distracting us from other sleights of hand, decouple this accelerated training scheme from half baked ideas about leadership in the profession; 3 if you think leadership’s a problem in the profession (and I do), invest in training in this role for people already in it as I suggest they might have a better idea about what is required than someone with a smattering of training but a decent degree and proxy appointment as one of the Lord’s anointed through this silly scheme.

  10. Supervision and training is such a critical part of our work. I agree that the notion of a “fast track” is insane. We get hung up on Evidenced Based Practice interventions for clients but what about evidence based supervision and training. What makes social workers feel more supported. We can’t do good work unless we feel supported ourselves. I have been very fortunate to be in great jobs with supervisors who have really challenged me. My higher education also did this. I don’t know where these good supervisors learned their skills but we need to bottle that up and keep making it. Slow down, make a good process that makes sense for everyone.

  11. Great post.

    Problematically, those entering the profession can’t always see the wood for the trees.

    So, someone building up their professional experience who really wants to help others may be hindered by issues that might not even cross their minds- e.g. by attending a uni they believe to be the best for their (and others’) progression, but which is focused on fast-tracking candidates.

    Top-down policies with little ‘user’ contribution unnerves me, but I do have some empathy for upcoming student cohorts.

  12. Surprised that so many of you are prepared to condemn out of hand a report that you’ve yet to read, based purely on a short newspaper article. This does not sugges the possession of critical faculties I would expect from intelligent, progressive social work. You play into the hands of those who say we have a problem. Would not be better to have waited 24 hours, read the report and based your responses on the basis of information not speculation. I think you would be pretty upset if someone condemned your work without doing them the courtesy of reading it.

    • Fair point. I was upset by the article and see what has happened with Frontline and extrapolating. Tomorrow I’m back to long days and knew I wouldn’t have time to comment but that’s what happens when I get upset and angry. I’m glad they’ll be better, more intelligent people than me along to pick up. It’s probably for the best. You’re right.

  13. This is a very helpful perspective and thanks for taking time to write this. I have a small hope that by challenging this new scheme you will not only raise concerns about it, but in doing so raise the profile of the difficulties and challenges faced in mental health social work, as well as highlight the profession’s current valuable contribution.

  14. A bang on the button article.

    Having graduated in 2012 i have yet to find a job in social work. Do not feel sorry for me just yet because i work in my local community challenging this goverment on issues to do with poverty and welfare. When i started university it was the new shiny degree that the goverment stated was the way forward to sort out the quality of social workers and improve practice. Like many of my group i had worked in a variety of community settings both paid and voluntary. The reason for this was based on advice from those who had already trod the path and university advisers. We also wanted to have as much experience as possible because many if not all realized the enormity of the role and wanted to be the best practitioners possible. Many like myself found mental health the area where we wanted to practice , through our placements , some good ,some bad. Also a significant investment of peoples time away from university. People were not just getting through university and having a lark but chipping away at the coal face in yet more unpaid work and long hours of study. Many of my group were single mums , former car makers and bus drivers etc with a diverse range of life skills between them. Many , like myself, came away with a 2.2 from university but are rightly still proud to have got there in the end. Does not having a degree from a supposed top university mean that i am completely stupid and probably incompetent and would probably have a poor practice record. NO ,NO,NO. I still give my time to a mental health project and have done so for about four years and i would have to say that there are far too many supposedly high minded ,over paid individuals in the sector who do not actually do any work as it is .I was trained generically by my university but the point i am trying to make is this , i value ongoing learning and academic learning but i rightly prioritize my social work values first and foremost . I also was helped through university by a variety of people but mostly by people who were former mechanics and ice cream sellers among many others. What a bunch of brilliant people. I have met apparently smart , top draw academic types. Phew , cold , aloof , and frankly rubbish with people with no decent concept of exclusion and inequality . Remember the Munro report to do with false compliance and the evidence chain and the huge nod towards the systems model. Well , how is someone who has not got the worldly knowledge going to engage with the community within which they have been placed. In truth they are not. No , they will be at the head of a team having done none of the above ,telling people who have put way more than their paid hours into a job they love about how it is, and how it should be done. I may add that what i have found is that mental health sits in a circle of inter changeable need and can involve all areas of social work. That is why i have had safeguarding children statutory experience , substance misuse experience and i am DANOS trained but have also worked in youth centers , hostels and worked in a residential setting with homeless former looked after children.

    Some great points made in this article on the basis of this supposed new and even more daft and stuck up scheme from a goverment who are out of touch and are to be frank , stupidly evil.

  15. Brilliant analysis of flawed policy initiative. My belated thoughts:

    Norman Lamb’s reference to young people in their late teens puzzles me. Where are these deeply troubled young people who are not receiving effective social work help? He seems to belittle and disparage those social workers already struggling to address the problems of this very challenging client group. He also shows a naive faith in the capacity of bright young graduates to reach out to young people with serious mental health problems and help them overcome their difficulties. If only it were that simple!

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