The REAL College of Social Work – Part Infinity

BASW and SCIE may be planning to merge to form BASWCOSWSCIESWBOFEETOFIIB.

(British Association of Social Workers College of Social Work Social Care Institute of Excellence Social Work College But Only For England Even Though Our First Initial Is British)

Trips off the tongue.

Having a Scottish parent though, makes me feel marginalised by this new college, much though I approve of the name – so in the spirit of yesterday’s fiery post, I’ve decided to set up my own College.

It will be called the College of People  With Social Work Qualifications and Those Who Are Studying Social Work.  CPWSWQATWASSW.

Good thing I grabbed the domain name  quickly and have been sitting on it for two years, biding my time.

My proposals are:-

To create a job for myself so I can move away from front line practice

To create jobs for my friends so they don’t have to actually do anything that involves social work but we can talk infinitely about what’s best for the profession.

To produce an online magazine because print is so last millennium.

To promote links with social work organisations internationally – cough cough, free trips to the Caribbean to ‘investigate’ how services work there, please.

Membership will be open to anyone who wants to join.

To set up a new set of capacibilities that will be expected of all social workers –

– these will include

– being able to type at least 40 wpm

– advocacy skills when working with oppressive  management regimes

–   Being able to work with Housing departments without raising your voice.

– Ensuring chocolate and biscuit supplies are constantly replenished in your place of work

– The importance of washing your own mug not using your colleague’s  special kitten mug because that makes her really angry – especially if you don’t wash it up.

– Not hiding paperwork in drawers to make your desk (if you have one) look tidier.

– Never being more than one hour late for pre-arranged visits.

There will be a consultation period of one week.

Membership will be free today only but after today will rise to £10,000 per annum to pay for my living costs and trips to the Caribbean.  As I don’t believe in paypal and secure transactions are overrated you can just leave your bank details in the comments below and I’ll be in touch.

Special concessionary rate for international members if they live somewhere I want to go on holiday to and can put me up free of charge for at least a week.

Irresistable, I know.

Chief Social Worker?

A couple of days ago, I noted a that BASW issued a press release stating that their ‘chief social worker plans gain tentative ministerial support’.

BASW (British Association of Social Workers)  have been lobbying for changes in the Health and Social Care Bill to establish, among other things, the position of a ‘Chief Social Worker’.

I have to say I feel more than a little uncomfortable about this proposal. Perhaps it’s because I don’t understand it but I really don’t see how a ‘Chief Social Worker’ position would fit in to the government advisory framework. Perhaps it is a matter that the status issue troubles me. I don’t think we, as a profession and a young profession at that, need to ape the medical model of having a ‘Chief Medical Officer’ or a ‘Chief Nursing Officer’. We have a completely different function and work to different demands. I don’t want social work to become a profession that needs to ape and mimic others figuratively shouting ‘me too.. me too’ and waving its presence in the face of ministers.  One of the criticisms of the medical models is the hierarchical natures of some of their professionals frameworks and if the proposals of the Social Work Reform Board are to take shape, there are going to be more creative and exciting ways to progress as a frontline practitioner other than management. But this position through the name and nature of the role seems to want to perpetuate hierarchy.

A Chief Social Worker would invariably come from a background of working with children as that is where the public perception of social work traditionally lies and possibly where the most ‘media interest’ lies. How would they be able to comment on issues affecting other service user groups with any authority? Would we need three Chief Social Workers? One for Children and Families, one for Adult Services and One for Mental Health Services? If no, who gets the ‘top job’? I think it is a testament to the death of generic social work that I am even able to ask that question but it is an important question to me as already it feels that social work in adult services and mental health is somewhat marginalised. To me, this one position would do so even more.

Is there a ‘Chief Teacher’? Is there a ‘Chief Occupational Therapist’? I’m asking because genuinely I don’t know. I don’t think there are but could be wrong.  I actually see social work as far more closely allied to those professions in lots of ways than doctors and nurses and fail completely to understand how having a single identifiable officer would help.

I understood that a part of the remit of the College of Social Work, when it is established, will be to provide a conduit of communication between the government and the profession. Far better, in my mind, to have a board structure with a group of social workers with wider ranges of expertise than to have one identifiable ‘Chief Social Worker’.

Maybe I’m completely missing the point – it wouldn’t be the first time – so please do comment and tell me why I’m wrong in my scepticism at this role.

Social Work is a plural profession. Social Work is not only practiced in the public statutory sector. I would feel that it is a way of fragmented the profession further to place one ‘sector’ above others in the implementation of this role but I accept that I am one front-line practitioner who has infinitely less experience than those making these proposals. I just want to know how I would benefit from there being a Chief Social Worker and how it would help me in my practice.

I think that by begging for crumbs from Parliament we are approaching the need for the profession to grow in the wrong way. We need bottom up growth, confidence and development much more than top down legislation. For Social Work to gain the respect that we would like it to, we need to take action and support those coming into the profession to grow, be strong and to support and weed out poor front line management which instils poor values and habits and burns out enthusiastic entrants to the profession.

Social Work would have better media coverage if social workers were better supported in the entry level position and given support way beyond the first year of practice in developing more skills and being allowed to advocate and advance the cause of users of social services rather than being turned into Performance Indicator Drones. I don’t deny my own responsibility in that. I have spent the last couple of weeks madly trying to catch up with the end of financial year targets personally.

What we need to do is to draw on the idealism that we felt when we started our social work training and went through university because almost all social work students feel that. We need to think back on those wishes, hopes and dreams we had of really advocating, working to needs-led agendas and on strengths-based models with and alongside users and remotivate ourselves and re-energise our profession rather than rely on those who left the frontline behind years ago to do it for us.

Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes effort.  But it needs collective action of more of the ‘social workers like me’ to stand up and ‘be counted’. To involve ourselves in the organisations that claim to speak for us and explain why we do what we do and how our employers might help or hinder us when we do this.

For me, one of the great failings of BASW is on the local level in London (I know there are active local groups around the country) . Perhaps now is a time for local support groups of social workers to form and provide peer support for each other outside the ‘organisation’ and between ourselves. We see the growth of user support groups and carer groups. How about professional support groups – we are busy people and they don’t have to take place in a physical sense but think how useful it might be to  have a resource of cross-authority or cross-borough local social workers to talk about issues affecting the profession outside the banner of a ‘membership’ organisation.  We have opportunities to make connections and build ideas now that never existed in the past.

Grassroots – that’s the way to go.

So I’m asking you two things. Firstly, have I completely missed the point of a ‘Chief Social Worker’? and if so, tell me because I genuinely want to know.

Secondly – would you be interested in a network of local social workers to support each other – not related to cases or management issues – confidentiality is a big issue – but in looking at ways that we can affect the profession in a ground up way.

I have a feeling that might be an idea I come back to.

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!