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Keep social work degree generic, Government adviser tells BASW England conference

The man appointed by the Westminster Government to lead a review into social work education earlier this year made a passionate call to keep the social work degree a generic qualification.

Speaking at BASW England’s Annual Student and Newly Qualified Social Worker Conference in Birmingham, David Croisdale-Appleby said: “Social workers ought to be able to work with all groups of people and all contexts. You can’t strip out a particular area and have a social worker who only knows about that.

“My experience of families is that they often have children and adults in them. They occasionally have people with mental health problems. Drug and alcohol problems. Domestic violence is not unknown in these situations so I find it very difficult to strip these out, which is why I believe the qualification ought to be a generic one.”

Mr Croisdale-Appleby said there was nothing wrong with people having opportunities to specialise, as in medical training. But he added: “Generic capability should not be sacrificed at the alter of early specialism.”

Mr Croisdale-Appleby’s report Re-visioning social work education: an independent review came weeks after Sir Martin Narey’s report into the education of children’s social workers was published near the start of the year.

The latter also recommended a generic qualification, but said students should specialise in children’s or adults after their first year.

Mr Croisdale-Appleby sounded a note of caution towards fast-track innovations into social work.

“This should not be innovation to be a fast provider. It should be innovation to be a quality provider,” he said.

He warned against “social work lite” in education and the “temptation to simplify what is a very complex procedure”.

“We must avoid bringing this down to a series of tasks you tick, tick tick and it’s done,” he said.

Mr Croisdale-Appleby’s other recommendations include linking supply of social work graduates to demand and making the assessed and supported year in employment compulsory after graduating and tied to a regularly assessed licence to practice which he maintains will improve the public perception of social work.

“It is a way to ensure the people who are practicing in your profession, like we do with doctors, are still capable of good practice,” he said.

Mr Croisdale-Appleby also recommended selection of social work students should be tightened and made nationally consistent with improved funding to ensure practice placements are “not just good but excellent”.