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Independent college a matter of “professional pride”

Chief executive Hilton Dawson has used a BASW conference in Northern Ireland to re-emphasise the case for an independent College of Social Work across the UK, led by social workers, arguing it represented a “matter of professional and personal pride”.

Speaking at a World Social Work Day celebration and conference in Stormont, Belfast, Mr Dawson said that social workers had become “cowed, wary and afraid,” adding: “So we are fighting back – and we want nothing less but actually nothing more – than what other professions already have.”

Speaking six days on from BASW’s launch of a referendum of members on whether the Association should take the lead in establishing a College of Social Work across the UK, he said: “We need a government which will recognise the critical importance of social work to people’s lives – just as good and just as vital as doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, and sometimes more so. We need a government with the guts to respond positively to the challenges of our profession instead of trying to water them down with its own ersatz college.”

“As for me, I know that social workers have taken some terrible knocks but I regard support for a college across the UK and standing up for our profession as a compelling matter of professional and personal pride,” he said.

The BASW chief executive offered a similar message at event the previous day in Manchester when he addressed the annual workshop of the Social Services Research Group, a UK-wide health and social care research organisation. Addressing an event on the theme of integrating health and social care services, Mr Dawson rejected the notion that a more assertive social work profession might impede closer multi-professional working.

“On the contrary,” he told delegates at the Manchester University venue. “I would want to assert that the reason why some people, some local authorities have felt free in their ignorance to dispute whether social work is a key profession – to question whether social work has any role in services for adults and indeed in services for children beyond those where others fear to tread – is precisely because the profession of social work has failed to assert itself. It is this that has been to the detriment of the high quality integrated services that people need, require and are entitled to expect.”

BASW revealed the college referendum plan on 3 March, following a meeting of the Association’s UK Council in late February. BASW members are expected to receive ballot papers next week and need to cast their votes by noon on 21 April.

BASW is strongly urging members to vote yes and pave the way for the launch of an independent college.