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Prominent social work figures question IB decision

Three prominent social work figures who have held discussions with leaders of BASW and the Interim Board of the nascent College of Social Work over the past year, attempting to resolve key differences, lined up to lament the decision of the IB to pull out of negotiations aimed at establishing a unified college.

Moving a non binding motion ‘deploring’ the IB decision to ‘unilaterally withdraw from negotiations’, David N Jones, former President of the International Federation of Social Workers, said: “It pains me and I think it pains you and social workers across the country, at a critical time for our nation’s economy, to see the squabble that is going on about an organisation that should represent us.”

Emphasising that “social work is more important than any one organisation”, Mr Jones added: “We confirm in this resolution that BASW is not the be-all and end-all, we have not been everything we have wanted to be, and there are times when you have to say, ‘that’s enough, we are ready to move onto something bigger and better’. We are ready to do that and always have been. But the Interim Board withdrew from those negotiations just at the point when things were going well, and I fail to understand why they withdrew.”

“I fear that the IB cannot be independent because it is funded by two other organisations, neither of which are managed by social workers – the government and Unison. Governments, as we have seen over recent years, create and destroys organisations at will. There is no security in an organisation that is funded by government. It has got to be funded by, and seen to be funded and controlled by, social workers.”

Supporting the motion Terry Bamford, a former BASW president and a founder member of the General Social Care Council, who has in the past criticised BASW’s stance in college negotiations, told delegates: “A crucial factor is the central importance of democracy. We are a democratically run organisation but the Interim Board has not been elected and we don’t know the model of governance proposed [for the model of a college the IB is developing]. So it’s a bit rich the IB criticising BASW for governance when its own governance is so flawed.”

Another speaker, Bill McKitterick, who along with Mr Bamford and two other figures, June Thorburn and Professor Ray Jones, have formed an ad hoc team lobbying BASW and the IB in tandem over the past year, told the AGM of his deep regret at the current impasse. “It is a very distressing time for me because I was an early supporter of a college that would be collegiate and ambitious in what it did.”