The Social Work Task Force today called for the formation of a national college of social work as a first step towards rebuilding confidence in the profession.
The proposed organisation, which children’s secretary Ed Balls is considering the case for, would serve as a champion for the profession while improving public understanding, spreading best practice, and leading policy debates that shape practice and conditions on the frontline.
National pay scale mooted
In its latest interim report, the taskforce also called for:
- a common career structure possibly linked to a national pay scale;
- clear guidance about how professionals’ time should be spent, how supervision can be protected, and how workloads can be managed;
- stronger partnerships between employers and training providers;
- improved recruitment data to inform workforce planning.
It also said it was “actively considering” the case for the qualifying period for social work to be extended to four years – a three year degree plus an assessed and supported year in practice – following calls from academics for this system to be introduced.
Improved understanding ‘crucial’, says report
Reform must be underpinned by a shared understanding of the role and purpose of social work – an essential factor in increasing recruitment, according to the report.
The taskforce, a government-appointed panel of experts, practitioners and directors, said previous attempts at reform have failed because the profession “has not enjoyed strong leadership, self-confidence or a clear, shared understanding of the contribution it can make to better outcomes”.
The report includes a 280-word “public description” of the profession, designed to be easily understood, which describes a social worker as someone who “helps adults and children to be safe so they can cope and take control of their lives again”.
The taskforce has commissioned a more detailed statement of the roles and tasks of social workers from workforce development and employer bodies, along with frontline staff, by September 2009.
A similar statement of roles and tasks was produced by the General Social Care Council, in conjunction with other bodies, in March 2008, after being commissioned by ministers in October 2006.
Proposal welcomed by BASW
The British Association of Social Workers welcomed the proposed national college of social work, having made a similar recommendation in a submission to the taskforce.
Hilton Dawson, the association’s chief executive, said he wanted to see a “shadow college” set up immediately after the final taskforce report in October.
In the long-term, Dawson said it should be led by social workers and extended beyond just England – to which the remit of the taskforce is confined – to cover the whole of the UK.
“This is the moment for social workers to take control of their own profession,” he added.
The taskforce is due to produce its final report in October.
Social Work Task Force raises concerns over ‘poor’ IT support