Social workers could be “obliterated off the map in the UK” if the profession does not show its worth.
The message came from practitioners attending the Social Services Expo & Conference in Edinburgh, with many expressing fears over increasing privatisation and the drive to integrate health and social care.
One social worker warned: “The way we are going it is about the privatisation agenda. It happened in Sweden and it is going to happen elsewhere. Social workers could be obliterated off the map in the UK because it is not valued. So we have to say ‘this is our value and this is what we do’."
Speaking at a session examining the future of social work over the next decade in the face of Scottish Government plans to merge health and social care services, the SASW member added: “BASW can help social workers hold on very tightly to the knowledge and skills needed when working with individuals, which is not about looking for outcomes and meeting targets, but meeting the needs of service users at a particular time.”
Conference participators spoke of the pressure of maintaining professional competencies when social work was became more fragmented across different agencies.
One said the profession would need to even work harder to promote its worth as it faces closer links with health colleagues: “We have been very poor over the years at recognising and publicising the good work we do. We have taken knocks from the media and politicians but we have never been very good at standing up for ourselves.”
Tim Parkinson, Development Officer with the Scottish Association of Social Work, urged social workers to stay true to their guiding principles.
He said: “We must ensure we work to our Code of Ethics because if we don’t and we are subsumed into other organisations, in ten years time we will end up anywhere they want us to be and not necessarily social workers.
“Empowerment starts from professional confidence, which comes from your sense of professional competence. If you reinforce that and keep it high by speaking to people who share the same values, you take that forward and say ‘yes, we are going to change and work in that structure, but to make it work we need this particular bit or that particular bit’.”