High-performing councils could be given “teaching” status with additional responsibilities for training social workers and students, the chair of the Social Work Task Force has suggested.
Moira Gibb said the idea of “teaching authorities” was based on similar models in education and the NHS, where services are built around the training needs of doctors.
Training needs of staff and students
Speaking at the Joint Social Work Education Conference at the University of Hertfordshire on Friday, she said: “High-performing authorities could be responsible for teaching not just the future generation of social workers, but for continuing professional development as well.”
The proposal is one of several being considered by the taskforce to encourage local authorities and other employers to focus more on training duties.
“Sense of learning”
Gibb, chief executive of Camden Council and former president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, recalled her own experience while training to be a social worker: “I did my first placement in a psychiatric hospital in a unit where there were six trainees together. The environment created a sense of learning in the organisation.”
But she stressed that the responsibility for learning should be shared between individual social workers and their employers.
Practitioners “don’t take learning seriously”
Too many staff were “passive recipients” regarding their own continuous professional development, she said, and a “huge amount of cultural change was needed” to improve standards.
“The willingness for social workers to continue to read and develop their knowledge after they qualify is quite disappointing really. They should leave university with a sense that they’re on a journey.”
Academic: staff need time to study
However, Jackie Rafferty, director of the Higher Education Academy Social Work and Social Policy Subject Centre, said employers often lacked the capacity to release staff from their frontline duties to study and attend courses.
“I don’t see CPD as a spare time activity for social workers to do on a Sunday morning,” she added.