Sector leaders are calling on the coalition government to end the “anxiety” over the social work reform programme for England and publicly commit to the project.
The previous Labour government set out a 10-year plan to reform the training, quality and status of the profession in March, two months before the general election.
A Department for Education spokesperson said ministers were still in the process of deciding upon their policy, nearly a month after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took office.
People across the social work sector are “holding our breath” and awaiting a positive signal from ministers, according to Nushra Mansuri, joint manager for the British Association of Social Workers in England.
She told Community Care: “It’s disappointing that the new education secretary [Michael Gove] has changed the name and focus of his department to education,” she said. “He has not mentioned social work at all and this is creating anxiety for social workers who want the new coalition government to commit to the reform programme.”
Mansuri urged the new government to set out its position on social work before the parliamentary recess in July.
Her call for urgency was backed by Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, Cornwall, who said: “It would be monumentally unwise for the government to discount or dismiss this important work without proper consideration and then full explanation.”
Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work and member of the Social Work Reform Board, said it was “understandable that they can’t roll out an entire programme within five minutes as they’re trying to establish a coalition”.
But she added: “We don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve already gathered.
“We need clarity, particularly in the higher education sector where there’s a long lead-in time to carry out the changes we need to make to the curriculum and so on.”
However, Richard Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, was more confident about the outlook: “It would not be surprising if some of the priorities and emphases contained within the Social Work Task Force report were altered,” he said. “A new government is always bound to look at all the programmes it inherits to make sure they cohere with its own policy lines.
“But the Social Work Reform Board has taken a business-as-usual approach. It is extremely unlikely that the taskforce analysis of the problems facing social work will be challenged. Work on the National College, workforce issues and improving the profession is progressing, as is work on all the 15 SWTF recommendations. There are no indications that the new government is inclined to row back on any of these at all.”