England needs review

Last week’s Association of Directors of Social Work conference in
Scotland inevitably heard a list of concerns surrounding the 21st
Century Review of Social Work, commissioned by the Scottish
executive last year.

But seen from a UK-wide perspective, the most striking thing about
the review is the fact that it exists at all.

Social work and social care in England and Wales face ideological
disinvestment by the government and uncertainty about the future of
the very institutions established to bolster the profession’s
identity. Meanwhile, despite an initial brief from Scottish
ministers to “rule nothing in and nothing out”, and a long hard
look at whether social work has a future as a profession, the
review’s chair Willy Roe said last week that the professional
identity of social work was not in doubt.

Many of the review’s conclusions are not surprising, but if they
prompt government action they will be revolutionary. In particular,
the review has found practitioners unable to do their jobs
effectively because of a barrage of bureaucracy.

This is the curse of New Labour. Greater investment has not been
experienced on the front line as greater ability to give people the
services they need. Unfortunately, ministers in London are less
willing to lift the stone on the experiences of front-line

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