Most social workers are confident that registering people who work in social care will eventually raise the profile of the workforce and improve the quality of services.
However, our survey, sponsored by the British Association of Social Workers, also reveals widespread anxiety.
Nearly three-quarters of the 1,100-plus social workers surveyed admit feeling worried or negative about the future of the profession, and 36% predict that social work as a distinct discipline is unlikely to exist in five years’ time.
One factor in this is the likely shift towards integrated working arrangements – half of social workers are now co-located with professionals from health, housing and education compared with one-third in our 204 survey.
More than a quarter of social workers are worried that this growth in multi-agency working will result in social work values being diluted.
Another factor is the emergence of new roles for social workers. More than six out of 10 children’s social workers acknowledge the potential benefits for users of the introduction of lead professional and budget-holding lead professional roles, to co-ordinate services. But more than half predict the change will not be good for social workers. Four out of 10 adults’ social workers, meanwhile, see direct payments and the In Control scheme, under which users are given personalised budgets, as bad for social workers, despite most acknowledging possible benefits for clients.
BASW chief executive Ian Johnston said negative attitudes reflected social workers’ working conditions: “We need to get people more involved in successful interventions. Practice involves firefighting most of the time and it doesn’t tend to work.”