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BASW warns that National College plan is ‘fatally flawed’

BASW chair Fran Fuller has warned that rival plans for a National College of Social Work in England are ‘fatally flawed’.

In an open letter to Moira Gibb, chair of the Social Work Reform Board (SWRB), Ms Fuller offered to ‘work together’ to address issues of contention but insisted that the SWRB’s College Development Group was adopting an approach that lacks credibility.

The BASW chair was responding to an article by Ms Gibb in the Guardian on 17 March, in which she said she was ‘puzzled’ at BASW’s decision to initiate a referendum of members on launching a College of Social Work across the UK (CSWUK).

The BASW chair explained that her paramount concern was the refusal of the College Development Group (CDG) to recognise that a government funded model – the National College of Social Work – was at odds with a genuinely independent organisation – ‘no other profession would establish a College in such a way’, she wrote.

‘Because the National College is not an independent organisation there will be very serious problems when it needs to challenge government – and indeed some of the organisations represented on the CDG – for possession of the powers and ability to influence currently held by others.’

Ms Fuller went on to set out three priorities ‘that many in government, in the Social Work Reform Board and in the National College Development Group do not exactly share’, including the need for a college to be funded primarily by social work membership subscriptions. It should also be accountable to these members and led by a board of social workers elected by the membership.

“We are concerned that the establishment of a National College is fatally flawed by the fact that your proposals are not firmly located within a social worker led organisation from the start,’ she wrote. ‘This will cause immense problems in establishing credibility with social workers who you need to join and pay membership fees to provide sustainability.’

Offering to discuss the issues with Ms Gibb and others within the CDG, the BASW chair set out a pathway for integrating the work of the two nascent colleges. Ms Fuller proposed offering the College Development Group a formal advisory role to the College for Social Work across the UK, seconding National College staff to the BASW-led model and enabling the CDG to nominate social workers for election to the BASW/CSWUK Council on 20 May.