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BASW cautions that newly appointed Chief Social Workers must work together

In a hectic week of announcements the Westminster Department of Education revealed that Isabelle Trowler, former Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care in Hackney, would be the new Chief Social Worker for Children and that Lyn Romeo is to become the Chief Social Worker for Adults in England. Ms Romeo is currently Assistant Director of Adult Social Care and Joint Commissioning for the London Borough of Camden.

BASW welcomed the two women to their new posts and Chief Executive Bridget Robb said she hoped to meet with them both shortly to discuss the challnges facing the profession, but the Association also expressed its disappointment at the division of the roles. "The long awaited announcements of Lyn Romeo and Isabelle Trowler as the Chief Social Workers for Adults and Children’s social work is both a celebration and a major disappointment.

"BASW has long supported the appointment of a Chief Social Worker to advise Government on social work issues, as happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The decision by the Department for Education and the Department of Health that they could not agree on a single post results in the unhappy compromise of two posts."

In a blog on BASW's website, Ms Robb added: "If they demonstrate they can work together effectively for the profession, then their appointments will be a major breakthrough. If they get trapped within their separate departments they will quickly lose the support of the profession."

Ms Trowler secured the Chief Social Worker for Children post on the back of her innovative work at Hackney where according to the Department for Education she “redesigned social work practice, reforming it from top to bottom and securing an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted. Isabelle also advised the Munro review about the redesign of children and families social work”.

Ms Romeo herself, who has 35 years of frontline and management experience, emphasised her strong social work credentials: “As a social worker myself, I know how challenging it can be on the frontline. It will be my aim to boost the profile of adult social work, support social workers in improving the quality of their practice and to make sure social workers can support the people they work with to achieve the outcomes they want for themselves.”

Responding to a busy week in which ministers also confirmed their support for the Fronltine fast-track training model for "high-flying" graduates, BASW highlighted how social workers on the frontline of practice have witnessed a host of other initiatives in recent years without noticeable benefits.

Ms Robb said: “Imposing government decisions without listening to the views of social workers has not worked, and it will not work. BASW holds a unique place in the social work profession, offering an authentic frontline voice that I am sure both Isabelle and Lyn will recognise and draw on as part of ensuring the very best outcomes for social work.”

Announcing Ms Trowler's appointment the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said: “Good social workers literally save lives; the bad can leave them in ruin. I am delighted that Isabelle Trowler has agreed to lead our reform programme; to challenge as well as to champion the profession so that vulnerable children and families are better protected.”

In the DfE statement announcing her appointment Ms Trowler said: "I know the best social work can transform lives but too often we hear about the worst. I want to raise standards throughout the profession so that every social work team in the country is as good as the best.

"Children’s social work is one of the hardest challenges a person can accept, and offers a unique opportunity to work with the most vulnerable families in the country. I relish the challenge of putting it up there as a career choice alongside medicine or teaching."