When Ray Jones took over the reins as chair of the British Association of Social Workers last May it was a huge boost for the organisation to recruit someone of his calibre and credibility.
So, it is sad news to hear he is quitting the job after just a few months, apparently as a result of a personality clash at the top. In his brief tenure, Jones helped raise the profile of BASW and his departure is a blow.
But the loss of one individual must not distract the association from the massive task it faces. This is a crucial time for the profession and BASW has a key role to play in maintaining social work’s professional identity. As we highlighted in our Stand Up for Social Care campaign, the demise of social services departments must not be allowed to lead to a dilution of social work values. With the Association of Directors of Social Services splitting into separate organisations for children’s and adults’ services, and services at a local level increasingly headed up by directors with no social work background, a strong representative organisation is more important than ever to bind the profession together.
So BASW needs to get its act together, sort out its internal problems and start building for the future. It must continue to forge closer relationships with other organisations, including local government union Unison and the General Social Care Council. But most of all it needs to build up its membership base. Currently there are some 11,000 BASW members but with more than 80,000 qualified social workers on the register there is scope for many more.
Teachers, doctors and nurses have recognised the importance of a robust professional organisation and by joining up in force they have reaped the benefits of a higher professional status. Social workers get the professional organisation they deserve.
If BASW can strengthen its voice and meet the challenges of 2007, including implementing the government’s social care reform programme, and with the all-important comprehensive spending review in the offing – then it deserves our full support.
Jones resigns from social work body
This article appeared in the 4 January issue under the headline “Time to find your voice”