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Concern that Narey report would see narrow "checklist" of children's social work skills

Social work is a single, internationally recognised profession and the social work role cannot be split into a distinct checklist of skills needed for adults and children’s social work, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has said in response to Sir Martin Narey’s report into the future of children’s social work training.

The 18 recommendations in Mr Narey’s report, 'Making the Education of Social Workers Consistently Effective', include the Chief Social Worker, Isabelle Trowler, producing “a single definition of what a newly qualified children's social worker needs to understand and be able to do, and universities should base their curricula on that, not ideological and theoretic concepts.”

Mr Narey’s report, published on 12 February, questions the calibre of social work graduates and calls for undergraduate trainees to be allowed to specialise in children's social work within their degree after just one year of generic training, and be given the option to complete all placements in children's social care.

He also concludes that the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) approval process and The College of Social Work’s (TCSW) endorsement scheme for social work degrees are both inadequate and need to be replaced by a “single and robust system of inspection”.

Narey reinforced the point by recommending that TCSW should become the single inspector of social work training courses and take on a full regulatory role.

Commenting on the report, BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said: “While we support Sir Martin Narey’s recommendation to retain an element of the generic social work degree we are concerned it is insufficient. Children can only be kept safe if social workers have a strong understanding of how a particular family functions as a whole; children’s social workers also need to be able to identify how adult problems are affecting children.

“Recent child deaths such as Hamzah Khan in Bradford and Daniel Pelka in Coventry are tragic illustrations of how issues affecting adults such as addiction and domestic violence can have a devastating, and sometimes fatal, impact on children.”

The Narey report highlights the General Medical Council’s single, nine-page document outlining the things it expects newly qualified doctors to understand, which he contrasts with the five documents that social work courses need to consider: the HCPC’s standards of proficiency, standards of education and training and standards of conduct, performance and ethics; TCSW’s professional capabilities framework; and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s benchmark statements for social work.

BASW said the report needed greater acknowledgement of wider pressures currently facing social workers and employers, which stymie the potential for trainees to pick up the necessary statutory experiences they need. “Sir Martin clearly has the best interests of children at heart but there must be an acknowledgement that university education is only part of the story – social workers must have high quality on-the-job placements in local authorities and other work environments, if they are to develop a real grounding in this incredibly complex and demanding profession.

“We are concerned that given the current strain on an overstretched and under-resourced child protection system, it is not likely to sustain more ‘on the job’ training of social work students without significant investment.

“In theory, placements offer a good opportunity for trainee social workers to get the experience they need to do the job, but in practice we are hearing that students are often being left to their own devices and used to plug gaps left by cuts to services.

“Some inexperienced student social workers are being included on emergency duty teams, used to cover sickness absence of colleagues and to supervise contact sessions between children and families.

“Social work students have to feel confident they will be fully supported by skilled and experienced supervisors working within a team that is not in a state of crisis”.

“BASW recognises there is scope for improving the quality of training offered by some universities, and wants to see high calibre students attracted to the profession. This will only happen if social work becomes a better understood and more respected profession, which means raising, not lowering, the credibility of the social work degree.”


See Narey report in full

Read Narey's 18 recommendations