Editorial Comment: Let’s be consistent

When social workers are asked about the biggest challenge they face in their day-to-day work, the answer often lies with bureaucracy and how it compromises time spent with clients. It’s a perennial problem with our survey of social workers last year suggesting that 67% of those considering leaving the profession would stay if there was less paperwork and more client contact.

But now, at last, the government appears to be doing something about it. Last week, the Department of Children Schools and Families unveiled proposals to enhance the capacity and skills of social workers in children’s services.

An impressive £73m is to be ploughed into the development of social workers over the next three years as part of the Children’s Workforce Action Plan, which builds on the commitments made in the Children’s Plan and Care Matters.

It includes remodelling social work roles and practices through additional investment in IT. And making sure we learn from the social work delivery pilots, announced by CWDC earlier this year. These 18 pilots will run to 2011, with outcome measures including the average time spent on assessments and with clients, and job satisfaction.

There’s also an array of proposals to tackle recruitment and retention, including more support for newly qualified social workers and new career pathways that enable experienced social workers to receive better pay to stay on the frontline. Understandably, it’s received a warm welcome. But, for the GSCC, it raised an important question – what about adult social work?

This week we also investigate the Skills for Care pilots that over the past three years explored new roles in social care, many involving adult services. While these have implications for social workers, the Department of Health is yet to launch its own plan for developing adult social work. During a dramatic period of policy change a corresponding investment to the DCSF’s is needed.

Failure to invest could see the emergence of distinct child and adult professions, regardless of the recent roles and tasks document that set out the unifying values of social work.

While the prospect of a split social work degree may have receded for the time being, we wait to see what impact having separate institutes for fostering best practice will lead to. And, inevitably, children’s social work would be given the sort of competitive advantage in recruitment and retention that could only lead to compromised standards in adult social work. Consistency is needed.

Related articles

Social care paraprofessionals feel out of their depth

Skills for Care pilots for New Types of Worker prove successful

Children’s style staff development must be extended to adults’ sector

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Mike Broad

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