BASW Statement: Education Select Committee Report on Social Work Reform
The report published today by the Commons Education Select Committee welcomes the government’s focus on social work, but is openly critical of the government’s proposals to reform the profession.
The report challenges key clauses contained within the Children and Social Work Bill, currently being debated in Grand Committee in the House of Lords, and warns that proposed changes could have a negative impact on services.
BASW ‘s evidence to the Committee is used within the report to highlight MP concerns that: “The Government’s new reforms do not focus enough on tackling the endemic retention problems. Poor working conditions, caused by high caseloads, negative media coverage and a dysfunctional ‘blame culture’, are driving experienced social workers from the profession. Limits should be placed on caseloads, and a national workforce planning system created to forecast supply and demand … A survey in 2012 by BASW found that 77% of respondents thought their caseloads were at an unmanageable level.”
Furthermore, the report reflects a consensus that the lack of dialogue between social workers and politicians has led to the current negative language and media representation of the profession, exacerbating poor morale and retention rates.
BASW Chief Executive Dr Ruth Allen speaking with Community Care stated the report raised: “Important concerns about the nature and pace of change” from the Department for Education, and went onto say: “We appreciate the report’s recognition that social workers need specialisation but also need to work across the lifespan and crucially with whole families.
“We need to ensure the great work that is going on – and which will be needed in the future – in adults, criminal justice and mental health social work is not undermined by the DfE’s unilateral focus on child protection priorities, for instance, [by] radically changing university training and education.
“BASW is pleased to see the recommendation that the current proposals in the Children and Social Work Bill for a new regulator under direct government control are not acceptable. There is recognition that regulation of social work should have equal status with other professions and should be primarily about public protection, with a separate, independent professional body promoting excellence for the long term.
“The description of a professional body within the report is from our written submission to the committee. That is the role we see the association fulfilling in the future – enabling social workers to practice excellently through CPD and professional development support.”
The recommendations from MP’s include:
- There should be one Chief Social Worker as recommended by the Munro Review to unify the profession at a national level
- A call for Government to change its plans as the Committee does not agree with the need for a new regulator, and goes on to define that the regulator’s role should concentrate on public protection by upholding practice standards, not defining standards for post-qualifying training
- The acknowledgement that a professional body is needed to deliver CPD and professional development, working in partnership with the British Association of Social Workers
- That specialism should be part of post-qualifying training (as there is a concern that there is too much focus on children and families social work)
- The introduction of a post-qualifying framework for CPD and further training, and for re-registration to be dependent on participation in endorsed courses
- That quality assurance is put in place for ASYE, and for this to be mandatory with consistently high standards across the country and protected caseloads
- There needs to be an extended study of fast track training providers, such as Frontline to assess long-term outcomes, with the further recommendation that providers deliver training with a social work education university partner
- The emphasis needs to be placed on keeping experienced social workers in the profession, rather than the over reliance on fast track recruits from Frontline and Step Up
- The establishment of a workforce planning system to tackle vacancy rates and retention problems
- The report urges ‘caution’ in regard to the Government’s focus on innovation and recommends an assessment of the effectiveness of the current independent trusts before the model is expanded.