Community care minister Stephen Ladyman caught everyone by
surprise earlier this year when he floated the idea of developing a
social care degree as an alternative route into the sector.
Although most people support raising the standard of training
and skills, many are sceptical about the viability of a social care
degree and concerned it could undermine the social work degree.
Ladyman and the Department of Health were quick to reassure the
sector that the proposed degree would not affect the future of the
social work qualification.
But the British Association of Social Workers believes the two
should not be separated because they could produce professionals
with overlapping knowledge and skills.
BASW says it would be better to broaden the scope of the
existing degree – essentially creating a social work and social
The idea has some merit: professional boundaries between social
work and social care and other aligned professions in health and
education are being blurred as multi-agency working takes root. So
why shouldn’t they receive similar pre-qualification training?
BASW also points out that the term “social care” is not used in
the rest of Europe, so international recognition for a degree would
A broader, single degree would help university social services
departments grow, adds the association. A spokesperson says: “It
would let them offer the diversity of teaching which is needed and
which is impossible to provide due to the smallness of the current
provision in most universities.”
BASW says it would be a “disaster” to have “competing” degrees.
Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care
Association, although not against the idea of a social care degree,
is not convinced it will work.
He says: “The social work degree doesn’t need expanding, but
perhaps we should look at where the syllabus is insufficient in
social care. If you have one degree it may reduce the number of
people going into social care because of the differences between
their status and that of social workers.”
Public sector union Unison is also sceptical about whether
people will be prepared to undertake a three-year university degree
– and the inevitable debt – without terms and conditions improving
“Pay would have to reflect the increase in minimum standards of
entry,” a spokesperson says. “People aren’t going to do a degree
and start on a salary of £12,000 a year and not know whether
they can progress up the ladder. There would need to be a
structured career path.”
Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Registered Nursing Home
Association, says the idea is “preposterous” without a clear case
being made on how it would improve care. “It is not necessarily so
that just because someone has a degree outcomes will improve.”
He speculates that the idea is being driven by the government’s
target to get 50 per cent of young people into university. “We’re
seeing targets replacing outcomes,” he says.
Ursell says rather than debating whether there should be a
separate or integrated social care degree, more effort is needed to
broaden the appeal of a career in the sector among