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Let us help make the College Work, BASW urges

“Let us help you make the College work,” was the message from BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson after addressing a meeting of the National College steering group, chaired by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

BASW presented its case for an “independent and democratically accountable” College to the steering group at a meeting on 22 March, where Mr Dawson explained: “BASW believes that the establishment of a College of Social Work represents a transforming moment when we can raise the status and standing of social work to give our profession the recognition it deserves. To ensure a UK College is successful, accountable, sustainable and independent it needs to be founded on the membership of social workers.”

Mr Dawson used the presentation to acknowledge differences between BASW and the steering group about the basis for developing a college, but made it clear that the Association was prepared to work with all partners to achieve the sort of institution that will properly support the social work profession.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We have a sound, principled approach which will work and we are prepared to be utterly flexible in negotiating how this might be put into practice. If we sit down together we might just succeed.”

During the meeting Mr Dawson and BASW’s College lead Bill McKitterick explained the four priorities for a College of Social Work to address, working with governments in each part of the UK to establish a role in the following areas:

· Standards of entry to the profession

· Accreditation of continuing professional development.

· Ensuring that all organisations which employ social workers have high standards

· A career structure for social work which enables the best qualified and most experienced people to remain in social work practice.

The outlook for close working between the two sides remains unclear but Mr Dawson said the current BASW referendum of members on launching a College of Social Work across the UK offered a chance for members to send a clear message about the sort of college they want.

A strong yes vote would support BASW’s hand in negotiations aimed at securing a college based on four fundamental principles, which he also set out to the steering group:

· The international Code of Ethics for social work on which the College should be founded.

· The financial independence of the College.

· The College being led by a board of social workers elected by and democratically accountable to the membership.

· The UK College seeking to learn from good practice in the devolved nations which will develop differently in each country in accordance with devolved democratic frameworks and decision making.

BASW attended the steering group meeting after the intervention of cabinet ministers for children and health respectively, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham. SCIE had previously asked Mr McKitterick not to attend steering group discussions after a BASW Council meeting on 24 February launched a referendum of members on whether the Association should launch a College of Social Work.

In the wake of the 22 March meeting, SCIE officials persisted in their stance, maintaining that there is a ‘conflict of interest’ until the conclusion of BASW’s referendum, but officials did agree to offer the Association ‘private briefings’.

Members have until 21 April to register their vote in the referendum, before the matter is then discussed by a further meeting of the UK Council on 28 April and at the BASW AGM on 20 May.