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BASW: Vilification of social workers is damaging the profession

Association raises concerns over government’s reform programme for children’s social work services in response to Education Select Committee

The perception that social work is ‘failing’ is deeply damaging to the profession, BASW has warned.

In its submission to the Education Select Committee Inquiry into social work reform highlights that the perceived failure of social work in England is in sharp contrast to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where the agenda is built on a relationship of respect and partnership.

“Social workers are deeply troubled by the approach embedded within The Child Protection Implementation Task Force, which appears to take a position from the outset that the social work profession is ‘failing’,” said the submission. “The deficit perspective is both incorrect and damaging for service users, professionals and society in general. It is unacceptable that there is no social worker as a member of this group.”

“The last decade has seen a deluge of high level committees, groups, reports, legislation and central and local government instruction which have variously not been effectively supported, implemented or allowed to mature due to a combination of a lack of will, time and resources,” the submission continues. “Hence it is the context of the work that is the ‘failure’, not the social work profession.”

The Social Work Inquiry by the select committee is based on a memorandum from the Department for Education on the government's approach to children's social work reforms. It followed the prime minister’s establishment last June of the Child Protection Implementation Taskforce, which is overseeing a sizeable programme of improvement to the children’s social care system.

The three main aims are:

  • Improving the skills and capacity of the social work workforce at all levels;
  • Creating working environments for them in which quality, innovation and efficiency are key to developing the very best work with children and families; and
  • Streamlining governance and accountability.

However, BASW’s submission to the Social Work Inquiry says that one response from their consultation could be used to sum up BASW’s stance and the views of members: “Perhaps more thought needs to be given to positive ways of learning rather than devising humiliating and disempowering strategies, including the parachuting in of highly paid strangers.”

The submission states that the relentless pressure to privatise services is undermining social work practice by driving down quality, standards and accountability, as ultimately profit and targets become the incentive and drivers.

Members concerns focused on:

  • The proposed direction of travel for the social work profession
  • A perceived failure to address the impact of the austerity measures
  • Public sector cuts across all services
  • The reality that many families are spiraling into poverty and crisis
  • Early intervention work has seriously diminished.

The submission highlights that the reform agenda only refers to children’s services and the split of social work into children and adults services has been “divisive and at times contradictory”.

It also states that social workers’ working conditions need improvements through protected caseloads, private working space rather than ‘hot desking’, number of hours worked and the consistent implementation of employer standards.

“The government in England need to be seen to enhance the status of the profession and should champion the excellent and complex work that social workers do as opposed to the current vilification and ‘witch hunts’ conducted via the media,” BASW concludes.

Read the full submission here.

 

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