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Social workers are the solution, not the problem: chief social worker

England’s Chief Social Worker for Children called for social workers to have a “new relationship” with local authorities that recognises their skills rather than just holding them to account.

Isabelle Trowler also claimed the profession needed a coherent “theory of service” built on what is known to work rather than the current plethora of approaches across the country.

Speaking at BASW’s England Annual Conference and Annual Meeting, she said: “We are seen as the problem with child protection. But it is not social work in charge of child protection, it is local government.

“We are a profession that assists local government in that task. We need to have a new relationship with local government saying ‘this is what we can do and this is the environment we need in which to practice’. Local government can then say how they wish us to contribute.”

Ms Trowler has been asked by the Westminster government to draw up a profile of what social workers should be able to do and what they should know at the end of their assisted first year in employment.

She is also looking at the potential of introducing a “licence to practice” for social workers in children’s services.

But she said it was vital the profession was “crystal clear” about what works in terms of social work and how to replicate it.

“It is amazing to me that we have been doing this work for decades and in England we have 133 different ways of doing it. We have huge intelligence in the system and held by many of us, but we have really failed to pull this together.

“We have serious case reviews, a massive Ofsted inspection process and a huge amount of valuable research going on but we need to pull it together in a coherent way.”

Ms Trowler, who last year took on the role as England’s first Chief Social Worker for Children along with Lyn Romeo, her equivalent for adults, told delegates at the BASW conference “this is our time”.

She added: “I am sure we have to help government fix their problem because if we do then they will listen to the solutions we have for the wider social world.”

Asked for her thoughts on the risk to service users faced by austerity cuts, Ms Trowler replied: “It is extremely hard for families out there. Our job as professionals is to work with families in whatever social context we face.”