It’s what all social workers have been waiting for: the final report from the Social Work Task Force. Today, the blueprint for the future of social work has been outlined and, on initial reading, the recommendations could bring about real and positive change for the profession.
The SWTF was set up at the height of the Baby P scandal – but not because of it, as commonly believed – in January and charged with conducting a ‘root and branch review’ of the profession. While the recommendations are hardly radical – more what many social workers/social work bodies have been requesting for years – they are nonetheless welcome.
In case you haven’t seen them, here are some of the headline recommendations:
- Reforms to initial training, so all students receive ‘good quality’ education and practice learning placements
- A new ‘licensing’ system which will introduce an assessed probationary year in employment for new social work graduates, during which they will receive extra support
- A revamped framework for continuing professional development, underpinned by a practice-based masters qualification, so all social workers can keep their skills up to date and develop specialist knowledge
- A career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in frontline roles as well as in management
- A new standard for employers to ensure all employers put in place high quality supervision, time for continuing professional development and manageable workloads
- Pay reform – to ensure social workers receive the appropriate pay and that it reflects their career development and progression
- A new and independent College for Social Work led and owned by the profession, which must establish a stronger voice for social work and exercise appropriate influence over national policy making and public debate.
To see the full report and press release at the DCSF website, click here.
On the face of it, these all seem sound recommendations. I’m sure all social workers will like the look of pay reforms, for instance.
The career development options also seem positive – many social workers have complained that to progress in their career they have to go into management and away from the frontline.
Also, newly qualified social workers have said that their training doesn’t adequately prepare them for practice – this should help address that.
While the licensing requirement just seems like the GSCC registration system by another name, this is a minor quibble and is probably there to help increase public confidence in social workers.
But, as social work associations ADASS and ADCS have pointed out, this package of reforms also need to come with resources. Disappointingly, health minister Andy Burnham has said details of this will not be announced until next year, along with the implementation plan. This will worry those in the profession – with tightening budgets, money for reforms and increased pay will be hard to find from existing resources.
I’m sure there will also be cynicism from within some parts of the profession – which has seen many initiatives and reforms come and go over the years with little discernable impact on practice – over things like the commitment to cut workloads and provide time for professional development and the masters qualification. I can envisage an ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude as this will be difficult to implement without bringing in more social workers. Again, this is where increased resources become crucial to the success – or otherwise – of the recommendations.
So, while these recommendations give hope for a brighter future for social work, it is now up to everyone – government, employers, social workers and others – to play their parts and ensure they become reality.