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BASW England's October – Mariella Frostrup, soap operas, the 'adoption tsar' and much more besides ...

Your BASW England team engages in many and varied activities on your behalf but this month seems to have been all about media appearances and comment. As such, this month, we are highlighting this particular area of our recent work. Overall, of course, it is great that BASW seems to be the ‘go to’ organisation for informed comment on social work issues, with the past few weeks confirming our status as the definitive voice of social work’. We often consult with members over our responses to make sure we are as accurate and representative as possible, so please feel free to let us know if you have an area of expertise or comment on a particular news story to share.

Adoption and Mariella Frostrup
One of the highlights of the past few weeks saw Nushra Mansuri participate as a panel member on the Radio 4 programme Bringing up Britain, presented by Mariella Frostrup, where the focus was on adoption. Other panellists included ‘Adoption Tsar’ Martin Narey, John Simmonds (BAAF) and researcher Julie Selywn (Bristol University). You can listen to the programme here.

It was interesting that in the same period Sue Kent joined with the Alliance of Child Centred Care to meet Martin Narey away from the media glare, and had the chance to challenge him about his continued emphasis on adoption at the exclusion of other options. She also pressed him on the concept of permanence. Mr Narey seemed unsure of the overlap of legislation in respect of all children, so Alliance members were only too pleased to offer advice!
Elsewhere that same week, Sue was speaking with local radio and media outlets in the West Midlands about social work in Walsall while Ruth Cartwright and Joe Godden were taking over Community Care and the Guardian Social Care Network with items on advanced mental health professionals (AMHPs) and student social workers respectively.

The following week saw the preliminary review of the child sexual exploitation case in Rochdale, which made headline news. A combination of BASW members and staff rose to the challenge and made appearances on Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC Radio London, ITN’s Sky News’ main lunchtime news programmes, as well as BBC News 24. BASW was also liberally quoted in a host of newspapers.

Nushra was saddened that some of the journalists decided to once again go down the path of attacking social workers and perpetuating a blame culture, so offered a robust response about the importance of learning lessons from such important cases. Interest in the subject even came from international media outlets, including the Voice of Russia which provided Nushra with more than the usual cursory two minutes to participate in a debate with the NSPCC and Professor Jennifer Temkin, Professor of Law at the University of Sussex. You can search for footage of this on YouTube.

Sue also spoke to the Voice of Russia about an accusation that British social workers are taking Slovakian children from their families without satisfactory grounds, following protests by Slovakian government officials over two specific British cases. The case offered an interesting reminder of the cultural differences around child protection across Europe, with the UK appearing to take a tougher line on certain issues than Slovakia.

Soap furore
Elsewhere, you won’t have missed this month how BASW has been challenging the BBC over its inaccurate and appalling portrayal of a social worker in EastEnders – watched by over eight million people. Thanks to members’ quick response to the programme BASW was able to appear on a host of different media outlets, including Sue making her debut on the BBC Breakfast sofa, to highlight the dangers of stereotyping our profession and, specifically, of showing a social worker acting completely illegally in removing a child from her family. Who would have thought that the same television company would have produced such a positive documentary as Protecting our Children just months ago? Ruth spoke about this issue on Channel 5 News but has yet to find anyone who saw it …

Sue and Nushra took a break from their media work in early October to join independent social workers at their annual conference, this year held in Birmingham. They enjoyed engaging with members who described both the positives and negatives of independent social work practice while listening to some brilliant presentations.

Other activities included Joe hosting 26 people at a workshop for BASW mentors on 28 September, where feedback was generally positive about our programme for linking up newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) with more experienced practitioners in a bid to help the former group to secure their first post on the career ladder – a tough challenge for many NQSWs in the current climate. We will soon be introducing changes to the scheme will be made to make it more flexible and to bring more clarity to the roles.

The workshop considered a proposal on whether there might be a way of using independent social workers to offer supervision for NQSWs who have found work but who are in a setting where there isn’t a qualified social worker in post. The idea would be to use the £2,000 government money available for each NQSW who finds themselves in such a setting – housing or mental health, for instance – to ensure they receive appropriate supervision. Hopefully this will enable more NQSWs to access the Assessed and Supported Year of Employment programmes, from which they risk being excluded if not in a job where they are described as a social worker or supervised by a social worker. If you are interested in this proposal let us know.

Other news …Among other news, university visits have continued offering a great opportunity to discuss ‘professionalism’ and social work in the light of Rochdale and EastEnders.

The Adults and Mental Health Reference groups have been discussing the consultation on the Care and Support Bill and White paper, and informative debates have taken place already, with particular concerns being expressed about the proposals for a new power of entry for social workers in cases of neglect.

Nearly sneaking under the radar in August was a report from the Audit Commission that stated how lots of money could be saved by replacing qualified social workers with unqualified staff. Ruth Cartwright, writing in Community Care, warned that “the report could spark a knee-jerk reaction that could put social worker posts at risk from councils which have a desperate need to save money in the face of draconian cuts". If your workplace is being affected by this report please let us know and we will support you.