Tag Archives: social workers

Yet another review of child protection coming

Child protection still isn’t working well enough. That’s the message from the Department for Education today, and, as is traditional with such things, is setting up a review of the profession to address this.

But the focus of the review is not on the quality of social workers, but on cutting bureaucracy and the barriers that prevent social workers spending more time with vulnerable children.

“Hallelujah” I hear social workers cry…

So, could this be an end to the much-disliked ‘box-ticking culture’ that has developed within social work in recent years? Let’s hope so. I’ve spoken to many in the profession over the past couple of years, and a constant theme is the amount of admin and paperwork they have to do – some have said it is as much as an 80-20 split on paperwork to spending time with children.

The initial signs that change might be coming are good. For example, the choice of Professor Eileen Munro to lead the review is positive. She is well respected within the profession and will not pull any punches or follow any particular political agendas.

In addition, the review will be informed by successful child protection systems from other countries.

The review will also look at how effectively children’s social workers and professionals in other agencies work together. From what I have written in the past, this is patchy – some are very good, others not, with a whole range of issues affecting this – but a drive to remove barriers to working together more makes sense – they are all pursuing the same goal, after all.

Nevertheless, social workers are in general a cynical bunch and will greet this review like they have greeted others in the recent past: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Many reviews have come and gone in children’s social work – most recently the Social Work Task Force – and often they have had little effect on frontline practice. I imagine this will be treated in the same manner until things actually start to change.

Elsewhere, children’s minister Tim Loughton also confirmed that serious case reviews are to be published in full but with redactions and anonymised ‘except where it would affect the welfare of any surviving children and their siblings’ and that ContactPoint is to be scrapped.

Both these are controversial. I won’t go over my standpoint on SCRs again – see SCRs – to publish or not to publish for that. But it does seem odd that the government is advocating more integrated working, but at the same time getting rid of ContactPoint, a database that should help that. It also seems like a huge waste of money, given the millions spent on it – and will anything be put in its place?

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How Social Work Task Force report can tackle image of social work

Scanning the newspapers to gauge the reaction to yesterday’s final report from the Social Work Task Force, it is the comments from some of the public that caught my eye.

Most of the national newspapers I’ve seen have covered the report in a straight way – outlining the major reforms, along with comments from ministers. The BBC has also done roughly the same.

The Daily Mail has tried to put more of a spin on it, highlighting the recommendation for reforming the pay structure – Social workers to be given pay RISES in wake of Baby P scandal – rather than the recommendations to drive up standards. Interestingly, the article’s original headline contained the word ‘outrage’ but dropped it soon after, presumably due to the general lack of outrage.

But as usual, the comments at the bottom of the article include anti-social worker vitriol along the lines of ‘sack them all’ (among many others). Ignoring the ludicrousness of those sorts of statements, it nevertheless shows how much still needs to be done to improve the image of social workers in the public eye.

These sorts of comments appear at the bottom of many articles on social work – regardless of the newspaper – and highlight the deep-rooted prejudice that exists among some of the general public.

Tackling these perceptions will be incredibly difficult. The Task Force recommendations should help if they are driven through. It calls for a programme of public understanding, with greater openness and enhancing awareness of what social workers do and the contribution good social work makes to society.

This is key; I think a lot of anti-social worker feeling is down to misconceptions about what they do and the fact that it is only when it goes wrong that it is reported in the media – social workers seem to be painted as either child snatchers or uncaring box-tickers that ignore obvious abuse.

More campaigns along the lines of the one to improve recruitment seen earlier this year – and which created a huge spike in interest – are needed, as is a sustained feeding of ‘good news’ stories into the media.

Also, if the other recommendations do end up raising standards, the resulting better outcomes – and fewer poor outcomes, more significantly – will help to change the perception of social workers over time. Likewise, the number of damning newspaper articles would decrease.

Achieving this will take a sustained campaign over many years, but it needs to be done. Teachers’ status has been rehabilitated following similar campaigns in the past decade, and there is no reason that it can’t be done for social workers.

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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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