Tag Archives: Moira Gibb

Unity needed to take social work forward

The national college of social work is still only a recommendation on a piece of paper, but already there are signs of dissent among social care organisations about the way forward for it.

Firstly, BASW has threatened to pull out of the group that will steer the development of the college over fears of government interference in it and subsequent lack of independence. Speaking to Community Care, BASW’s chief executive, Hilton Dawson alleged that the £5 million government start-up funding comes with “strings attached” and that it could become “another quango” as a result.

BASW’s council members are currently deciding whether to accept an invitation to become part of the college development group.

Now, trades union Unison, which represents 40% of social workers, has come out with some distinctly lukewarm comments about where priorities in improving social work need to be. Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, told Community Care that setting up a college should not become a “distraction” from other priorities, such as cutting excessive workloads and bureaucracy, so that social workers can spend more time with service users.

Unison also wouldn’t be drawn on whether it would recommend its members to join it, when it is up and running, if they had to pay a registration fee.

These missives are worrying; it is only just over a month since the Social Work Task Force’s final report recommended setting up a national college, something that was almost universally welcomed. Yet already, before it’s started, there seems to be disagreement about the way forward.

One thing’s for certain, Moira Gibb, chair of the Social Work Reform Board, needs to work hard to ensure that all groups are on board with the agenda and moving in the same direction. But by the same token, all groups need to be prepared to work together – and compromise if necessary – to ensure these urgently needed reforms make it through.

Dissention could de-rail the whole agenda and end leave social work in the same state it is in now, which surely no-one wants. This is too great an opportunity to change the profession to miss.

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Social Work Task Force report good for social workers

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.

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Big week for social care

For those of us involved in reporting on social care – adults and children – this week is shaping up to be a busy one, with 2 major reports coming out that should make mainstream national headlines.

The much-vaunted final report from Moira Gibb’s Social Work Task Force (SWTF) is due out tomorrow, with the Care Quality Commission’s first major assessment of the quality of adult social care in England coming on Wednesday.

The SWTF report is awaited with particular interest because that should contain elements that – it is hoped – will change social work practice for the better. Some of its contents have already been trailed (including in this blog on November 20) including implementing a probationary year for newly-qualified social workers and the establishment of a national college of social work along the lines of medical Royal Colleges, which augur well for the full contents of the report.

Meanwhile, the CQC’s report has been less well trailed but should also put social care in the spotlight. The report will contain information on all 148 councils’ performance in adult social care, an analysis of how well commissioners are purchasing services, the performance of residential homes and home care agencies, and the CQC’s response to the adult social care green paper.

The media response to both should be interesting because I suspect they will vary significantly. I imagine the SWTF report will be welcomed, with its emphasis on how practice and training can be improved, although there will be gripes about what isn’t included in it.

However, I suspect the emphasis of reporting on the CQC report will focus on the areas that are failing – undoubtedly the minority – and virtually ignore the rest of the content. As usual in the national media, a cheap, sensational, social care-bashing headline and story will be produced, rather than more balanced reportage.

I’ll be covering both reports in the blog over the next few days and try to give a balanced take of the content – whether it is good or bad – as well as looking at the reaction to it elsewhere.

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Probation a good move for new social workers

It may only be a trailer for the main event, but Moira Gibb’s confirmation that the Social Work Taskforce (SWTF) will recommend in it’s forthcoming final report that social work graduates will have to complete a probationary year of supervised practice before being allowed to register with the GSCC, will be welcomed with interest by social workers.

Ms Gibb, chair of the taskforce, told Community Care Live delegates that while the social work degree wouldn’t be radically overhauled, a year of supervised and assessed practice would help to drive up standards.

The idea of a probationary year seems logical. After all, it is asking a lot to expect someone fresh out of university to instantly be able to deal with complex, challenging and sometimes deeply upsetting, cases.

There are nuances of practice that can only be picked up by doing the job and learning from more experienced colleagues. In many other professions, a probationary, supervised period has to be completed.

Many newly-qualified social workers have complained about workloads and a lack of support in the recent past. Also, one of the recommendations to the Taskforce by the Association of Professors of Social Work was for a probationary year.

While this measure won’t prevent another Baby P from happening – there will always be child deaths – it will give social workers more of the tools and confidence to be able to practice more effectively and drive up standards, which will at least reduce the chances of more child tragedies occurring.

The final report from the SWTF is expected in “the next few weeks” and hopefully this early snippet is indicative of the content of rest of the report. Social workers will certainly hope so – if it is, it could bring about positive change to the profession.

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