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BASW offers robust defence of “invaluable” independent social work role

BASW has defended independent social workers against a “major assault” by the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, who last week called for their role in court proceedings to end.

In an article on Community’s Care’s online news site Marion Davis claimed the removal of ISWs from court proceedings would have no impact. Ms Davis added that the role of ISWs has a “detrimental effect” on social workers’ morale.

We think they are an expensive part of the landscape,” Davis told Community Care. “Independent social workers are just some of the enormous number of people checking on what social workers do, which can undermine social workers’ professional judgement.”

Helen Ogilvy, an independent social worker currently project managing BASW’s ISW work, described comments Davis’s as ”simplistic and ill-informed”, adding that they were not based on evidence.

Ms Ogilvy said ISWs she had spoken with had reacted with “anger, disbelief, shock and frustration” to Davis’s attack.

“People are particularly concerned that someone with such an influential role, both within ADCS and as a reference group member to the Munro review, should make such comments at all but particularly without any evidence base to support the assertions.

“On what ground does she consider that ISWs are checking up on social workers? I have yet to meet an ISW who considers that part of their remit.”

BASW England officer Nushra Mansuri described the remarks as a “major assault” on a valuable workforce. She added: “We don’t want local authority social workers and ISWs to be pitted against one another but envisage a world that recognises that there is room for both and that whilst an ISW is not necessary in every set of care proceedings, there are cases when their input is invaluable and they can make a critical difference in the decision making process.”

In a sign of the widespread frustration at Ms Davis’s comments, BASW joined with Nagalro and the Independent Social Workers Association in issuing a joint statement criticizing her intervention.

Responding to the suggestion that ISWs were employed to check on social workers, Nagalro chair Ann Haigh said: “The sound judgment of one professional is no threat to that of colleagues, and should be welcomed by all as a means to secure the best interests of children.”

Meanwhile, BASW and Nagalro are pressing ahead with their joint campaign to force the UK government to drop plans to cap the court fees for independent social workers (ISWs). A proposal to plans to cap fees at £30 an hour (£33 for workers in London) will be implemented from 1 October 2010.

Investigations are continuing into the launch of a judicial review but if this is not possible they will instead lobby for a postponement of the fee capping pending the outcome of the forthcoming review of the Family Justice System when a considered decision on fee structures can be made on the basis of accurate data particularly in relation to the impact on children.

What is your view of Marion Davis’s comments. Visit MyBASW today and take part in the online debate – log in (or register if you are a first time user) and visit

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To view the original Marion Davis article in Community Care, visit