British Association of Social Workers » News Tue, 20 Feb 2018 01:49:47 +0000 en hourly 1 Care day 2018 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media Care Day 2018

February 16, 2018 is Care Day, the world’s biggest celebration of children and young people with care experience.  This includes children who are, or who were cared for by parents, kinship carers or other family members, often supported by social workers.

Scotland has made significant strides forward in recognising the importance of how we as a country look after children who need this; initiatives such as the Care Review  and the 1000 voices campaign  are testament to this intent. Over the last few years we have witnessed impressive contributions from care experienced young people at conferences and events which were previously more informed by “professionals”. Yet we can’t be complacent and feel we have ticked the boxes with our celebrations. There is still a long way to go in translating the rhetoric of change into real and sustainable action.

Social workers are involved in the assessment and planning for children and young people who may need to be looked after, and this work is frequently dominated by legal matters and tools, which were all developed to assist and safeguard the processes involved, but which can affect the most crucial building block of all: the forming of a working relationship. Young people tell us how frustrated and fed up they can feel when their social worker has to cancel, when they turn up late, when they seem stressed and tired, when gathering information for reports appears to take precedent over talking, and when they change jobs so there is (yet) another worker. While we don’t always have control over such things, we can affect how we communicate them.

SASW uses every opportunity possible to highlight in the right places what is needed to allow social workers to do the job they were trained to do. We promote prevention, and think we need to take great care before we consider “early intervention”.

We also hear from young people who are confident about saying their social worker was there for them and enabled them to be the best they could be in difficult circumstances. The testimonies we receive as part of the nominations for our annual SASW Awards are truly inspirational. What stands out is not working loads of overtime outside what is required, but workers who are calm, consistent, and made them feel they, as well as their families (even if they could not look after them) mattered. BASW adopted a Service Users and Carers Framework which assists us in our work as an association.

Social workers need to be well supported so that they can work with and for children and young people who need or want this. They need to be able to reflect, and to look beyond the tick list of risk factors. What is really being said? What goes on in the context of “the child”; what is the actual reality of the GIRFEC “My World” triangle? Is the family coping, is there evidence of domestic abuse, is poverty an issue, what can the community do? Is there any trust?

Some of the parents we work with today may be the care experienced young people from yesterday. We need to listen beyond the words or change how we speak if we aren’t heard so that we can communicate better. We have a duty to make sure that today’s care experienced young people can be confident parents of confident children tomorrow.


The Power Threat Meaning Framework: a radically different perspective on mental health Fri, 16 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media When you ask social workers what compass directs them in mental health services, the answer is often “the social model”.  But what they exactly mean may be less clear, particularly how it relates to the dominant medical diagnostic model.

Sometimes the models run pragmatically concurrent with social workers focussing on the social aspects of the lives of people who are considered to have an illness that needs to be treated.

At other times, the two models seem in opposition, with many social workers feeling that an over focus on diagnosis often places them on the fringes. For this reason, social workers will be interested in a new alternative to the dominant diagnostic model of mental illness.

The “Power Threat Meaning Framework” was developed by a team of senior psychologists, service users & carers and leading mental health survivors & activists, funded by the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP). It was formally launched to an audience of 400 in London in January 2018. 

The Framework is a lengthy, detailed and ambitious attempt to move beyond medicalisation. Instead of asking "what is wrong with you?” it asks:-

  • What has happened to you?  (How is Power operating in your life?)
  • How did it affect you?  (What kind of Threats does this pose?)
  • What sense did you make of it? (What is the Meaning of these experiences to you?)
  • What did you have to do to survive? (What kinds of threat response are you using?)

The Framework sees people as actively making choices and creating meaning in their lives and recognises that emotional distress and troubled or troubling behaviour are intelligible responses to a person’s history and circumstances that can only be understood with reference to the cultures in which they occur.

Social workers will be interested in the way in which the model focuses on the operation of power, including interpersonal, economic and the ideological power to control language and agendas and to impose meanings. They will also be interested in the way that the model reconnects social context and “threat responses”, or “symptoms” as they are usually caused, and the way in which this promotes the need for social action and supports a new kind of preventative social policy response.

In some professional quarters the launch of the Framework has been controversial, while some service users have also been critical. This is understandable, for diagnosis has appeared to offer a straightforward explanation of complex difficulties over many years. Some people find medication to be very helpful and feel that the Framework is anti-medication and some service users are concerned that without diagnosis they will lose access to essential social and financial resources and services.

In response I would like to make the following points:-

  • The authors have been clear that, although detailed and complex, this is an optional conceptual resource that is in the first stage of development and is open to feedback.
  • The framework is not “anti-medication”, rather it suggests, in line with others such as Psychiatrist Joanna Moncrief[1], that psychiatric drugs have useful but limited general effects rather than correcting a theoretical but, arguably unproven, chemical imbalance.
  • Although service user concerns about access to welfare and benefits are understandable, I feel they are nonetheless misplaced because these are social policy decisions that are independent of diagnostic models. No one is saying that mental distress is any less disabling simply because it is thought about in a non-diagnostic way, and nor is the Framework a policy document.
  • The model is not an “alternative classification system for mental illness”. It does not recognise a separate group of people who are “mentally ill”. Rather it considers that the universal struggle to survive, form relationships, find a place in the social group, secure resources for ourselves and our families, applies equally to all of us.

From a mental health social work perspective the framework is likely to be entirely uncontroversial. I have spoken to many social workers and so far their response has been entirely positive. Our professional training encourages us to understand people holistically within their social context and this framework supports this approach by firmly and fully reconnecting personal experience and social context with mental distress and troubling behaviour.

During my work as an AMHP, the last two people I assessed brought familiar and similar themes that chimed with the Framework. They were men in their 50s with a history of substance misuse, homelessness, chaotic lifestyles and time spent in prison. They both had diagnoses that alternated between schizophrenia and personality disorder and a history of childhood sexual abuse and time within the care system.

It appeared in both cases that the childhood and other life experiences had been forgotten over time and that the focus had largely been on medication compliance and relapse. In this respect, holding onto the idea of a social model is challenging when the model is largely undefined, and you are working in a system where medical understanding is dominant.

These kinds of difficulties are why I as a social worker feel so encouraged by the development of this framework.

Phil Wilshire, Principal social worker for Avon and Wiltshire NHS Partnership Trust and contributor to PTM Framework


Further reading

Frequently asked questions:

The Framework itself, plus examples of good practice:

The main document including a detailed summary of the underpinning principles and research:


[1] Moncrieff, Joanna (2008). The Myth of the Chemical Cure: a critique of psychiatric drug treatment. Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-57431-1. OCLC 184963084.


Social Workers express dismay at Stormont talks breakdown Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) has expressed its concern and disappointment at the failure of talks to re-establish a Northern Ireland Executive.

Speaking following the collapse in negotiations, Colin Reid, NIASW Chair, said: “The social work sector is facing significant and growing pressures which, to be addressed, require decisive political leadership.

“Ahead of us lies a Department of Health proposal to include social workers in radically reformed primary care structures, and demand continues to grow in what is an already constrained social care system. All the while, social workers continue to shoulder increasing workloads in the face of stifling bureaucracy.”

NIASW recently submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee inquiry set up to examine the impact caused by the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive. 

Mr Reid continued by saying: “NIASW firmly believes the sector is best served when decisions concerning structures for delivering social work services and budgets are taken by locally accountable, democratically elected Ministers and scrutinised by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“However, in the current political vacuum progress is not being made to address the challenges our sector faces. NIASW calls on our political representatives to show leadership, accept the need for compromise, and come to a workable agreement to enable the re-establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive.”


Notes for editors

  • Colin Reid, NIASW Chair, will be available for interview.
  • The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) is part of the British Association Social Workers (BASW), the largest professional body for social workers in the UK. The Association has 21,000 members employed in frontline, management, academic and research positions in all care settings.


Andy McClenaghan, Campaigns Officer

Phone: 028 9064 8873

Mobile: 07702 517560


Reducing parental conflict hub (Early Intervention Foundation) Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media Child sexual exploitation - evidence briefings (University of Bedfordshire) Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media How can we improve support for young carers? (Healthwatch) Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media Impact of world events on children (Mental Health Foundation) Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media New survey shows half of all schoolchildren feel sad or anxious every week Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media BASW finds more concern than guidance in ‘Foster Care in England’ report Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media BASW England had high hopes of Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers' long-awaited Independent review of the Fostering System in England and shared many of its aims, mostly in identifying what is working well alongside seeking improvements where necessary to achieve better outcomes for children. 

It is pleasing that the report begins by acknowledging that fostering is indeed a success story and that this is backed up by sound evidence.

However, there are many areas of the report that are of great concern to BASW members and it is disappointing that some opportunities to bring about much needed change to the current system seem to be missed.

In many respects, the report has gone far beyond its brief by attempting to re-introduce Government proposals contained in the innovation clauses of the Children and Social Work Act (2017) during its passage through Parliament, which called for the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to be substantially reduced, Fostering Panels to be dispensed with and to allow Independent Fostering Agencies to replace the role of the child’s social worker.

These innovation clauses were successfully challenged and defeated in March 2017 notably, thanks to a coalition of individuals and over 50 organisations called Together for Children (of which BASW England was a member) on the basis that they could fundamentally undermine the rights of children. 

It seems folly that the sector, once again, finds itself in a position of having to defend the introduction of important checks and balances for children in the care system.

It is vital that children’s care plans are reviewed by individuals who are not directly involved in providing support to either the child or the foster carer.  IROs need to be objective and able to scrutinise and hold to account the individuals and agencies who are charged with meeting the educational, health and day-to-day care needs of the child.

Rather than see the role of IROs removed or diluted, BASW England feels this role needs to be strengthened in increasingly challenging resource-led environments.

BASW England is disappointed that the report seems to advocate for long term fostering to be converted into Special Guardianship Orders or adoptive placements rather than establishing Staying Put as the means to achieving permanency for young people. 

Whilst some long term fostering placements may result in carers applying for an SGO or becoming adoptive parents this should not be the default position and defeats the argument that long-term fostering is a success story for many young people.

BASW England is concerned that the section on contact in the report is both erroneous and misleading.  It suggests that the presumption of contact was removed by the Children and Families Act 2014 and should only take place if it is in the child’s interest, but that is not the case and it is important that this part of the report is corrected.

In-fact, legislation requires contact to take place between children and their birth families unless the local authority has evidence that contact is not in the interests of the child’s welfare. 

Similarly, the section on Sibling Separation infers that placing siblings together is just a matter of social work convention, when it is in fact a legal requirement for local authorities to ensure that a placement enables siblings who are in the care system to be accommodated together as far as it is reasonably practicable. 

It is very disappointing that both these sections of the report unfairly criticise social work practice.

Finally, we commend attempts by the report to promote physical affection between foster carers and children, the increased use of delegated authority and the right of a child to an independent advocate – these are all areas that have been the subject of debate for many years and should by now be embedded in the care system but clearly, more work needs to be done here.


NSPCC survey: children’s disclosures of abuse Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000 BASW media