Do you think there should be a national agency for child
protection services? The government is said to be considering an
agency in response to the Victoria Climbie inquiry.
Is the current system sound, but not being applied well?
What do you think?
Have your say by clicking here
and your comments will appear in this section of the
website on 2 August.
A recent Have your say asked if social workers had poor
literacy and numeracy skills?
These are the comments we received:
“As a senior practitioner and practice teacher
in a busy child care team, I have been concerned, shocked, and if I
am honest, a little angry about the poor literacy skills I have
observed in both qualified staff and students coming on placement
to my agency.
The demands placed upon the profession today are immense, and
staff must be equipped to meet the challenge. In my experience
social work courses are reluctant to accept those concerns that are
raised about their students’ basic literacy and competency skills,
because to do so highlights their poor selection criteria.
Nevertheless, I am expected as a practice teacher to negotiate such
difficulties, addressing with students problems that I should not
have to deal with, and which they should have been made aware of
far earlier in the process.
While social work as a profession continues to take an ‘anyone
welcome’ approach to selection and training, it will continue to
struggle in the face of demands for increasing professionalism, and
those least equipped to cope with it will suffer.
I personally would welcome a far more stringent selection
process for those students interested in applying for training
courses, as I would in the selection of staff applying for jobs.
Perhaps then everyone will get the workers they deserve, and we as
professionals will command the respect we already deserve, but
“I am a registered homes manager for adults
with learning disabilities, who has always struggled with poor
literacy and numeracy skills. Two years ago I started studying with
the open university (OU) for a degree, through the OU I was given
the courage to have an assessment for dyslexia. Knowing my problem
has helped in a great way, even now being open with people about my
Most people who struggle in this area are possibly dyslexic, but
are unaware that this is their problem. Please don’t think that
younger people are not going to have this problem, teachers are
recognising dyslexia, but the government is not funding the extra
teaching they require, so the problem will continue. Just because
we have a problem expressing ourselves on paper does not mean we
cannot gain a professional qualification or be a top tier
professional. With the use of computers, we can overcome the
problem. As a caring profession, surely help should be offered to
“As a first year social work student with
dyslexia, I found that the article about writing reports
interesting. I have already come across discrimination on my course
from lecturers concerning my dyslexia.
The problem with my dyslexia that it does not stop me writing
good reports, but just that I take longer. In addition, my dyslexia
does not stop myself from being a capable student, or if I pass, a
good social worker in the future. To start to vet people interested
in becoming social workers because of their dyslexia could mean
that many students might miss the chance of becoming social
workers, because their English might not be up to a certain
The writing of good reports should be seen in context of the
large caseload that many social workers have to face on a daily
basis, and also the growing amount of daily paper work. This amount
of work means that many social workers just do not have the time to
sit down and write a good report, or even check the English
To get good written reports then you must give people the time
to write the reports, and this means lower case loads. While
writing reports is an important part of the social work skill, it
should not be over stated, and used as an excuse to attack social
workers who already do a stressful job, without addressing one of
the main problems for social workers, that of high case
“Literacy is not the only problem academia
needs to address in social work education. I returned to academic
study as a mature student in 1996 following 20 years of working in
the commercial sector. I took an access to social work course
followed by BA in social work, eventually graduating in 2000.
There were a number of individuals including myself on the
course that struggled with certain aspects of literacy in
particular the correct use of grammar. I understand the need for
clear evaluation, concise and accurate recording. However this does
not appear to be understood by academia, which seemed to be
oblivious to the demands of the profession, lacking any real
understanding of the constrictions encountered by individuals
working with in it. Therefore academia’s obsession with excessively
long, overly complicated explanations which are distanced from the
reality is of more concern.
We also see a government that is determined to reduce the
individuals ability to analyse and evaluate, determining that all
education must be prescriptive. Consequently it denies the
individual freedom of thought the ability to question or challenge
making the whole process a much diluted experience. I do not feel
that this particular issue is associated just with social work
courses but indicative of problems with our university education
“Your otherwise excellent article on the poor
standards of literacy among some social workers, could have
mentioned the apparent unwillingness of some academic institutions
to refuse to award students their professional qualification, even
when they fail, sometimes spectacularly, to pass a practice
placement. Problems with literacy often being a factor in the
practice teacher’s assessment that the individual is
Dr Vic Tuck
“This is a debate which has been raging within
social services for sometime. It is assumed (as noted in your
article) that only a small number of social workers working within
any given authority at any one time, have problems with numeracy
and literacy. I think if departments were to be inspected as to the
proficiency of their staff to understand, disseminate and present
complex information and data regarding their clients, I have an
inkling that the profession as a whole would be somewhat surprised
by the poor results, which would be wider spread than is currently
believed to be the case.
In a culture of performance management, this is far from
satisfactory. All within social work are well aware of the
penalties of poor performance. If practitioners have difficulties
in comprehending what is required regarding statutory returns and
measuring performance and are unable to assist accurate data
collection – it is obviously the worse for their departments.
As a practitioner myself, I am well aware that competency within
social work does not rest solely upon literacy and numeracy skills.
However, as with many other professions, these skills are amongst
those which form the foundations of the profession, and upon which
competent practice is built. It is inferred that if literacy and
numeracy are problematic, then the ability to interpret key
legislation and policy regarding social work, education, housing
and health will also be problematic.
More importantly, service users themselves are failed by the
inability of some practitioners to present their problems or
difficulties to other professionals. Is it little wonder then, that
some practitioners feel intimidated by medical or educational
professionals who are more erudite and articulate in expressing
their own views both verbally and in written form.
I welcome the introduction of a qualifying threshold for entry
to the new three-year degree course. I also welcome the extension
of time spent in practice placements prior to qualification. I am
hoping that these reforms will make a substantive difference to the
quality of candidates entering the profession, thereby improving
the quality of services for users.“
Children’s Planning and Information Officer