The National Institute for Social Work is set to close down and
transfer its functions to the Social Care Institute for Excellence,
according to a provisional agreement reached with the Department of
Health last week.
Board members of NISW agreed that the charity, which was
established more than 40 years ago to promote excellence in social
work and social care, would cease to be viable in its own right
after Scie takes over its core functions in the autumn.
“The charitable objectives are best pursued through Scie from
now on,” NISW chairperson John Ransford said.
Subject to a satisfactory deal being reached with the government
on the transfer of functions and the majority of NISW’s 40 staff to
the new charitable company, NISW’s board of governors is likely to
decide on an “orderly closure” at its next meeting in June.
Ransford predicted that it could take up to a year from then to
complete current work and sell NISW’s central London buildings.
Scie was announced by the government in July 2000 and will be
responsible for developing a knowledge base of what works in social
care and disseminating that knowledge to managers, practitioners,
and service users. It will also produce best practice guidelines
for frontline staff.
Ransford said it would not be financially viable for the two
organisations to co-exist as they would be fighting for the same
government contracts and funding.
“The services that NISW has developed will be taken on in a more
secure environment by Scie,” Ransford said.
He added said the three most crucial elements developed by NISW
– the electronic social care library, the development of the
information network and of practice in general, and the inclusion
of a service-user perspective – appeared to have been taken on by
Peter Beresford, chairperson of the independent network for
service users Shaping our Lives, said he hoped that Scie would be
committed to a strategic approach to user involvement. But he
doubted that Scie as an organisation could provide the support to
the independent network provided by NISW.
“We are concerned about the loss of NISW, which has been a
terrific resource to advance user involvement for social care,”
Beresford said. “We hope to speak to Scie about how it can take on
user involvement in a systematic way but we do not expect we can
look to Scie to have the same supportive relationship.”
Beresford said the independent network would instead be asking
for government funding to help create an independent free-standing
organisation to speak out on quality according to service
Meanwhile, the results of the consultation on the quality
strategy for social care released last week reveal that the concept
of Scie is seen as “very positive” and is thought to represent “a
rare opportunity to provide a national framework for quality”.
Respondents to the government’s strategy, which was published in
August 2000, believe Scie must be “strong and independent” and
build effective partnerships with other national bodies in order to
The majority of the 260 organisations which responded to the
quality strategy supported the use and dissemination of research
findings as a key role for Scie, calling for it to “summarise and
synthesise” and make life-long learning “an on-going objective for