Letters to Community Care 1 April 2010

Social work college stand-off is so sad

Recent coverage of the row between BASW and the Social Work Task Force (news, p7, 25 March) on who does what does not augur well for the future of social work. My ballot paper has arrived and I shall be saying “no”. I wish I didn’t have to vote at all.

It’s a shame that BASW has taken away its ball and refused to accept the government leadership on the college for social work. It’s a shame that the government and the Social Work Task Force didn’t trust BASW enough to give it a clear leadership role and if necessary nurture it to maturity.

The very low level of membership of BASW is certainly a problem but simply reflects the poor regard social work has been held in for far too long. The solution must be to build confidence and support BASW.

And for those of us who have waited patiently all our lives for a social work body which reflects our professionalism, it’s even more of a shame.

As I listen to each side self-righteously arguing their position, I frankly despair – both sides have a point but that’s not the point. The point is that now is the time to take the long view and work together for a future for social work that guarantees a decent chance for all the people we work with and who need good strong social work support.

Last week we saw in Sheffield and Birmingham tragedies in the public domain with no real shared public acceptance of accountability. We must learn to publish serious case reviews in full and behave like grown up professionals. This should be a mark of honour for us.

Until all this happens we will continue to fail and of course BASW membership will remain ridiculously low. The leaders from the organisations who should be supporting the profession through BASW corporate membership – only 12 in the UK at the last count – will continue to stay home.

When I was a social worker I believed I was accountable for what I did, I accepted that sometimes I got it wrong and I learned from my mistakes. As a director of social services, I believed I was accountable for the social workers on my patch – if they got it wrong, I wondered if I had supported them enough, trained them enough, valued them enough. In other words, it works both ways. I am accountable as a social worker for what I do and in return my director is accountable to me for my support etc. It’s a shared accountability.

Let’s applaud Sefton, the Wirral, Blackpool, Oxfordshire as the only social services departments in England to do so. My promise is to stand up for my profession and urge others to do the same. Meanwhile, please will both sides, BASW and the government, who both want what we all want, take a deep breath and reconsider their positions.

Julia Ross is a BASW member, former social worker and Director of Social Services and contributed to the Social Work Task Force programme as the Department of Health National Strategic Adviser for Social Care Workforce


In defence of C4EO safeguarding article

I was disappointed to read letters raising concerns about the article published by Community Care on 4 March – “Engaging families where children may be suffering” Through its work, the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) brings together the best available evidence of “what works”, ie what needs to be in place to make the difference to children’s lives, along with improving the delivery of children’s services.

We do this through a robust approach to gathering national research evidence and data, supported with examples of effective local practice which have demonstrated a substantial impact on children’s outcomes.

We also recruit expert local practitioners who work with C4EO on a flexible part-time basis, supporting local areas across the country to implement the findings from research, at their request.

We recognise that those working in children’s services are very busy meeting the demands of their day-to-day work and we produce summaries of our research, highlighting key messages from our findings. These summaries point readers to the detailed full reviews of our evidence, published on our website.

The Proven Practice article summarised our work and, unfortunately, it is not always possible to portray the level of detail we would wish for, in a limited space. This is why we referred readers to more information on our website. I regret that the brevity of the article may have caused some misunderstanding about the nature of our findings.

We would warmly welcome any opportunity to discuss our findings and their interpretation with any reader who wants to know more about our research.

Christine Davies, Director, C4EO

PQ courses are being undervalued

The article about training in therapeutic approaches (“A luxury or a necessity?”, 18 March) didn’t tell the whole story.

Councils faced with rising child protection referrals and shrinking budgets can easily perceive post-qualifying courses as luxuries, and shadow children’s minister Tim Loughton has parroted this view – but it is shortsighted.

In the long run, social workers doing PQ courses will be better able to intervene effectively; avoid care proceedings; save money – and meet the best interests of the child. The skills of reflective practice in PQSW courses such as these are essential and cost-effective.

Steven Walker, Principal Lecturer Anglia Ruskin University

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