Social workers in Wales lack self-confidence and are over-burdened by bureaucracy, a top civil servant admitted today.
The profession requires a major overhaul to win the public’s trust, according to Rob Pickford, director of social services for Wales at the Welsh assembly government.
“It’s clear that social work is still not in the right place,” said Pickford, addressing the National Social Services conference for Wales
in Llandudno. “There are issues about a lack of self-confidence – [the profession] feels very much done to, blamed, and over-burdened by process; and perhaps above all, regularly second-guessed.”
Pickford, who began his career as a social worker in the Rhondda Valleys, added: “We have to be able to trust social workers to get it right the first time. Too often the presumption is that they will have got it wrong.”
He said the task group on the social services workforce in Wales, commissioned by the Welsh assembly government and due to report in the autumn, would need to find ways of improving the profession’s standing.
“We should look at initial and continued social work training, and improving career pathways – is [the answer] a senior and powerful consultant social work role? How do we deliver stronger evidence-based practice? We have to face up to the challenge of bureaucracy.” Pickford said there was an opportunity for Wales to join the national college of social work currently being developed in England, and he was “alarmed at the lack of debate” about the issue in Wales.
“We have to think about what this could or could not do in Wales.” The Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru is reserving judgement on whether or not to back the national college until the final report of the task group is published.
But Neelam Bhardwaja, the association’s immediate past-president, warned that the sector would not “piggyback” onto English policies without careful consideration.
The college, due to be launched in 2011, was recommended by the Social Work Task Force for England to provide a unified voice for the profession, and there may be opportunities to extend its remit to cover the whole of the UK.
Speaking after the conference, Bhardwaja told Community Care: “That work was developed in England, in an English context. Social workers are more respected and supported in Wales.”