A British Association of Social Workers official has warned the Social Work Taskforce provides the “last chance to save social work with adults” in some parts of England.
Professional officer for England Ruth Cartwright said she knew of two large councils who were planning to significantly reduce social work numbers as part of the implementation of personalisation.
She said there was a “real danger of social work in adult services being deskilled and devalued” and urged the taskforce to address this.
However, she was accused of “scaremongering” by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, whose president, John Dixon, said he did not expect to see social work job losses, and said the profession had a “bright future”.
While Cartwright stressed that all councils would continue to need adult social workers, to handle safeguarding and support clients with complex cases, she warned work was being transferred from social workers to cheaper non-qualified staff.
Predictions of fewer adult social workers
A Community Care survey of 600 adult social workers last year found 58% believed there would be fewer of them in post by 2011, the final year of the government’s three-year Putting People First programme to personalise care.
In a number of councils, the implementation of personalisation has involved the transfer of care management tasks for users with less complex needs from social workers to non-social work staff, though this has not necessarily led to the loss of social work jobs.
Cartwright warned: “I’d be very concerned if care management was left in the hands of people without a social work qualification. Non-qualified staff may not be able to tease out what people really need and want.”
Hope challenged on the issue
She challenged care services minister Phil Hope on the issue at last week’s World Social Work Day conference in London. In response, Hope said social workers should not be seen as “too expensive” for the personalisation era because of their “critical role in understanding the needs of individuals and families”.
Cartwright told Community Care: “If central government believes there’s a clear definite social work role they should be saying that to local government.”
New responsibilities for social workers
However, Dixon said there had always been a “significant dependence on unqualified workers to do care management”, even before the introduction of personalisation, while the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was providing new responsibilities for social workers.
He said: “This has really put a greater emphasis on supporting people to establish their level of capacity and decisions they can take. That is absolutely a matter for professional social workers.”
• Is personalisation leading to the loss of qualified social work posts in your council? Have your say on CareSpace.