The government must consider raising social work pay and tightening entry requirements for the degree, sector leaders have said in response to the establishment of a taskforce on the profession’s future.
From next month, the Social Work Taskforce will look at the long-term future of the profession across adults’ and children’s services. It will be headed by Moira Gibb, chief executive of Camden Council and former president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, and report by next summer.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls and health secretary Alan Johnson said the taskforce was created on the advice of an expert group on the children’s workforce, chaired by Association of Directors of Children’s Services president Maggie Atkinson.
Baby P link
Balls also linked the move to the Baby P case by announcing its establishment in the News of the World, sister paper of The Sun, which has led a campaign to oust social workers involved in the case.
Indicating that he wanted to raise the status of social work to the level of teaching, he wrote: “We have to make sure a case like Baby P doesn’t happen again.”
Atkinson said the government needed to consider higher pay for practitioners as a way of boosting recruitment. “Social workers in particular should receive remuneration commensurate with the nature of the decisions they are taking on behalf of our most vulnerable and challenging children,” she said.
She also raised concerns that entry requirements for social work degree students were “much lower than for teachers or nurses”, contributing to its low status.
Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, called for an end to the government’s “minimalist” approach to supporting new recruits, warning that current pilots supporting newly qualified social workers in children’s services were “tokenistic”.
Attack on News of the World piece
Johnston also backed extending the length of the social work degree beyond three years. But he criticised Balls for announcing the taskforce in the News of the World, following the recent tabloid “vilification” of social workers over the Baby P case.
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