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IPPR ‘Frontline’ report: we first need to retain existing social workers

As the IPPR today publishes a new report proposing to apply the Teach First model to children’s social work, BASW cautioned of the need to support and retain existing staff and current graduates, many of whom are struggling to secure their first posts.

The report, Frontline: Improving the Children’s Social Work Profession, proposes a two-year training scheme for graduates, requiring high academic achievement for entry, an assessment centre process, and an ‘intensive summer school’ to fast track students into a local authority frontline team where they will then complete a work-based training programme tailored towards children’s social work practice.

BASW acting chief executive Bridget Robb, who was a member of the working party which wrote the report, said: “We welcome any initiative that aims to strengthen the profession, but schemes such as these should not be spun as a criticism of the existing workforce, or as a panacea to all of society’s ills.

“We are already waiting to see if the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) for social work graduates will be rolled out across the country and what effect that will have on the profession, and the Frontline scheme must surely be allied to that – we do not want to see the emergence of a two-tier profession or to prevent perfectly capable social work graduates from getting their foot on the first run of the career ladder.

“We already know that graduates with firsts are struggling to find jobs in local authorities, so to a large extent attracting bright graduates into the profession is not the issue.

“We know that some employers are unwilling to recruit newly qualified staff, so a key priority is to ensure we provide our future workforce with opportunities to be employed and to actually complete their ASYE, which otherwise becomes meaningless.

“Our State of Social Work survey earlier this year exposed the massive pressures facing our current workforce, with overwhelming caseloads and rising levels of referrals leaving them struggling to cope. The reality of current practice is not an attractive prospect for any graduate. It is doesn’t matter how gifted or talented an individual is if they are overloaded with work to the point of burnout once they find a job.”