Social workers, unite and take ownership of your profession, says BASW’s new chair
Social workers must get together and take ownership of their professional identity and future, said BASW’s new chair Gerry Nosowska.
In her inaugural speech at the association’s Annual UK Conference and AGM, she highlighted the profession’s values and ethics as guiding principles while stressing the importance of integrity in practice.
Nosowska said: “We can’t be defined as a profession by someone else. But we don’t usually have all that much control over the roles that we take because we are generally working for the public with public money.
“So we need to be really clear about who we are, what we offer and how we want to work and influence people around us – government, employers, other agencies and professions and the public.”
Nosowska said social workers should be clear when they go into someone’s home who they are, why they are there, how they will work and what they can offer. This, she said, would be guided by BASW’s code of ethics and the international definition of social work.
Work conditions, however, sometimes make this difficult, she added. “Often it feels like we are overloaded, rushed, preoccupied, unsupported and undervalued. We don’t have the resources. In some ways it is a difficult time to talk about owning our future. But in other ways we have to do it now. It is more important than when things are going well.”
Nosowska said social workers must “join together and look after each other”.
“We are one profession with one code of ethics. In practice this means getting together and talking about cases. Doing group reflection. Checking up on each other. Making cups of tea for each other. Mentoring people. Not blaming people if they make mistakes, help people to learn. If you are a social work manager, not allocating a case to a struggling social worker. Not overloading people.”
For BASW, she said, it meant welcoming more members into the association and working in partnership with people with lived experience of services to increase integrity and expertise.
She urged social workers to increase their professional knowledge through research and getting involved in initiatives influencing service development.
She added: “If we are genuinely people of integrity and genuinely here to offer hope to people and genuinely interested in changing people’s lives, we have to own our future.
“We are doing really rewarding and difficult work in a difficult context. Now is the time to join up as much as we can and work in partnership as much as we can to influence as widely as we can.”
Look out for a full interview with Gerry in the next issue of PSW.