(Pic by Mark Pinder)
The new chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers promised to channel members’ voices into “every effective forum in the land”, to ensure future social policies are designed around frontline practice.
Hilton Dawson plans to use the first three months of his post, starting in April, to “get out on the road”, visiting as many local authorities and other workplaces as possible across the UK.
Dawson told Community Care he would ensure all of the frontline views he gathers will be fed into the social work taskforce, due to report this summer. He also promised to use the networking skills built up over eight years as an MP to convey them to “the highest level in all of the governments and administrations in the UK”.
Julie Jones, chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, was one of several experts to endorse Dawson’s “broad experience” across Parliament, local government, and the voluntary sector.
Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University and former BASW chair, also welcomed the appointment, while Liz Davies, senior lecturer in social work at London Metropolitan University, expected it would strengthen “the public profile of social work at this critical time”.
Following months of negative media coverage of the profession, Dawson said he was “sick and tired of social work being so underrated”.
The social work consultant, who lives in Northumberland, said he would be happy to sit down with newspaper editors and explain “the reality of social work”. But he stopped short of endorsing Community Care’s petition and related Parliamentary motion calling for more positive media coverage, saying he was “less impressed at throwing verbal missiles”.
Strengthening post-qualifying training was essential for raising the status of the profession, he said.
“There’s a huge need to develop the [PQ] framework. If we build a very, very strong professional framework, I don’t see why social work can’t become just as respected as medicine or law.”
Although outgoing chief executive Ian Johnston had left the association in a “very healthy condition”, Dawson promised to add to the existing 11,500-strong membership and build links with unions.
Employers should support BASW membership among staff, he said, which could even be linked to regulators’ post-registration training and learning schemes.
“I want to explore the possibility of making membership part of the re-registration framework with the General Social Care Council. Being a member gives you huge benefits of professional development.”
A National Voice, the user-led organisation for looked-after children, also welcomed the appointment of Dawson, an adviser to the charity.
A joint statement from ANV’s national coordinator Maxine Wrigley and two young service users said: “Hilton Dawson is a passionate children and young peoples champion – he is the ‘real thing’! He truly cares about the voices of young people and is a dedicated and committed advocate for children and young people from care.”