The new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has promised to restore morale to children’s social work by highlighting its value to society and working to improve post-qualifying training.
Kim Bromley-Derry, director of children’s services at Newham Council in London, told a reception yesterday to mark his election that the profession was “feeling under siege” following the Baby P case.
He feared recruitment and retention problems could worsen as the sting of public criticism took effect, adding: “Social workers have said to me, ‘why would you want to enter this profession [in the current climate]?’.”
But Bromley-Derry pledged to take action on the issue.
‘Demystify social work’
Firstly, it was important to “demystify” social work by engaging with families and the media, Bromley-Derry said.
“How are decisions made, what are the criteria? I don’t think we explain that very well. There’s a need to be more open about what we do and why we’re doing it.”
Day in the life programmes
He suggested there should be newspaper articles or television programmes showing ‘a day in the life of a social worker’, as well as staged case conferences.
Bromley-Derry, who has a background in social work, said it was also important to “start celebrating the fantastic work that practitioners do” – a central aim of Community Care‘s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign.
Invest in training
Secondly, employers should invest more resources in continued professional development. “The easiest way to show to someone that you value them is to support their career progression and focus on their development,” he said.
Lord Laming’s report on child protection in England, published last month, found training opportunities in local authorities were “varied and locally sourced”. It recommended a new “practice-focused” postgraduate qualification to be completed by all children’s social workers.
Problems with some Laming recommendations
Bromley-Derry said some of the Laming recommendations, all of which the government has accepted, could pose problems in implementation, such as ring-fencing child protection funding. But he added that Laming’s approach was “pragmatic and sensible”.
Safeguarding is one of the association’s four policy priorities for the year ahead. The others are: reducing the impact of poverty on children and families, leadership development for directors of children’s services and their senior teams, and the transfer of 16-19 education funding to local authorities.