BASW: Ministers must understand that the situation for many social workers is deteriorating not improving

BASW has responded to education secretary Michael Gove’s assertion that the current social work reform agenda will enable social workers to spend the time they need with at risk children by calling for more far reaching reforms of practice, training and funding.

Mr Gove told MPs that a combination of slimmed down guidance for social workers, the Frontline programme to train graduates on the job and reforms of the assessment process would bolster the “capacity of the social work profession to cope with the challenges thrown at it”.

BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb, however, said that while aspects of the reforms were welcome, they do not come close to addressing the problems social work is currently facing.

Speaking after Mr Gove made his comments in response to a question from Meg Munn MP, Ms Robb said: “BASW wants to support the Government when it attempts to reform social work for the better, and we are contributing our expertise to the development of its Frontline proposals. Yet ministers simply must understand that right now the situation for many social workers is deteriorating, not getting better, or even on the cusp of getting better.

“We know very well that public finances are in a poor state but the cutbacks we are seeing within local authorities are simply unmanageable for already resource starved social work teams, and all the more so when compounded by an ever growing demand for services.

“Michael Gove must do two things if he is to be taken seriously in his belief that social work’s capacity to cope with rising demands on children’s services can be improved anytime soon.

“Firstly, he must ensure all local authorities in England are able to adequately support their social work teams, ensuring resources are made available to fill vacancies and reduce an over-reliance on agency staff, and provide the administrative support so desperately needed if practitioners are to get out and see the children and families who need their intervention.

“Secondly, he needs to take Eileen Munro’s report down from the shelf where it is gathering dust and implement it in full – not just in slimming down the Working Together guidance, which of itself does little and could even prove a regressive move, but by properly comprehending the recommendations around preventative work. Right now the evidence seems to be that funding for working with families to prevent problems escalating out of control has been earmarked instead for the Government’s number one hobby horse – adoption.”

Ms Robb also called for a radical shake-up of social work training, well beyond the current agenda, to properly prepare practitioners entering the profession.

“Too many new social workers are just not ready to practice, as the current degree course is neither general enough to offer the breadth of training required, or specific enough to provide the necessary level of focus needed in a real workplace. Serious consideration needs to be given to a broader undergraduate programme covering social care, social work and social pedagogy to give would-be social workers a proper grounding in the field.

“After this, aspiring social workers could hone their skills and properly prepare for practice via post-graduate training, possibly on an employment-based programme supported by universities along the lines of the Frontline model.

“Quick fix ideas just won’t cut it with the challenges social workers are facing – we need sustained commitment, with big ideas given the time to bear fruit. Social workers need it and those who rely on their services deserve it.”

ENDS

BASW statement on Frontline programme

BASW has formulated a statement on the Frontline programme, emphasising ongoing concerns about issues including entrance requirements and the importance of candidates values and experience, but also welcoming “the potential for diversity in the delivery of social work education”.

Read the full statement, developed by BASW’s Learning and Development Committee.

Michael Gove’s Commons’ exchange

The exchange in the House of Commons between Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, and Meg Munn MP, who is also Chair of the Child Protection All-Party Parliamentary Group on 4 March. The pair were debating progress made on implementing The Munro Review of Child Protection, published in 2011.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): What progress he has made on implementation of the recommendations of the Munro review of social work.

The Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove): We are making a number of changes to the child protection system. “Working Together to Safeguard Children”, the guidance that provides support and advice to those who look after children potentially subject to abuse, risk or neglect, will be republished shortly in a tighter and more focused way.

Meg Munn: We are two years on from the original work, whose aim was to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and the time that social workers were spending on form filling. Many social workers are reporting that the situation has not changed at all and that they are still in a system that does not give them sufficient time to work directly with children. Where have things gone wrong and what is the Secretary of State going to do about it?

Michael Gove: The hon. Lady is right to emphasise how difficult life is for many social workers at the front line. Part of the problem rests with the complicated process that we inherited, which the revision of “Working Together” attempts to address. The space or gap between the initial and subsequent assessments that children at risk of abuse or neglect have to face is one of the changes addressed through the Munro recommendations. However, we also need to change how local safeguarding children boards operate and to make sure that the capacity of the social work profession to cope with the challenges thrown at it is greater. That is being addressed through the College of Social Work and the additional support that we hope to give through the launch of the Frontline programme.

The hon. Lady is right to emphasise how difficult life is for many social workers at the front line. Part of the problem rests with the complicated process that we inherited, which the revision of “Working Together” attempts to address. The space or gap between the initial and subsequent assessments that children at risk of abuse or neglect have to face is one of the changes addressed through the Munro recommendations. However, we also need to change how local safeguarding children boards operate and to make sure that the capacity of the social work profession to cope with the challenges thrown at it is greater. That is being addressed through the College of Social Work and the additional support that we hope to give through the launch of the Frontline programme.

Published : 6th March 2013

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