The Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) was last week tossed onto the bonfire of the quangos, prompting fears for the training of children’s social workers.
Education secretary Michael Gove announced he was withdrawing all Department for Education funding from the skills council.
The core functions of the CWDC, which receives around £150m a year from the government, will be absorbed into the DfE by early 2012 and it will lose its status as a non-departmental public body.
Social workers and sector leaders have questioned the impact this will have on the provision of training and development programmes in children’s services across England.
Jane Haywood, chief executive of the CWDC, vowed to continue supporting the workforce as a sector skills body. The CWDC, which began life in 2005 to support the Every Child Matters programme, exists as a company in its own right.
Discussions have opened about the transfer of functions, yet it’s not clear what will happen to the CWDC’s programmes to support training and recruitment in children’s social work (see box).
Many experts are starting to question whether the DfE will be able to deliver such large scale programmes in accordance with local needs.
“How will a central government department deliver on-the-ground support and resources, the way the CWDC has?” said Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, at Community Care’s Children and Families conference.
This sentiment was echoed by Matt Dunkley, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, who said he was concerned that an “in-house” DfE workforce development service would not be as responsive to the needs of employers.
“The CWDC has the needs of employers at the heart of its work,” he said. “Employers can influence the training available to meet the needs of local services and inform the level of need for that training.”
Meanwhile, John Chowcat, general secretary of Aspect, warned the decision to withdraw funding from the CWDC would weaken frontline service delivery.
“The great strides made in recent years have been founded on the professional development of a full range of skills. CWDC has been critical to this development,” he said.
“This decision will hinder the close working of both the different agencies in children’s services and inhibit professional development.
“It will make the work of children’s services managers and professionals even more difficult at a time when cuts in local authority funding will raise new problems.”
However, others were more welcoming. The British Association of Social Workers described Gove’s decision as “regrettable” but the “right thing to do”.
Bridget Robb, development manager of BASW, praised the CWDC for its groundbreaking work in developing the children’s workforce.
But she added: “I’m not at all surprised that it’s losing its funding and non-departmental body status and that’s the right decision in the current climate.”
The CWDC’s social work programmes
● Step Up to Social Work: Employment-based route to a masters qualification designed to encourage high-flying graduates to re-train as social workers.
● NQSW programme: Support framework for newly qualified social workers in children’s services. The programme is in its third year and more than 3,000 NQSWs have participated so far.
● Return to social work: A 20-day refresher course designed to encourage qualified social workers who left the profession to return to the sector.
● Peer support programmes for managers: Helping 230 managers and assistant directors from 75 local authorities and 11 national voluntary organisations find new ways to tackle challenges in recruitment and retention.
● Advanced social worker scheme: Pilot scheme giving recognition to experienced social workers who want to move up the career ladder without becoming managers.
Students and social workers at Community Care Live Children and Families have their say on the CWDC’s demise
Rebecca Harrison, health and social care student, Merton College, south London
“I think there should be an organisation to help social work students because at the moment a lot of social workers aren’t getting it right. If social workers do not have enough training more children will be at risk.”
Andrew Zborowski, social work graduate, from Croydon, south London
“The government should realise that the cost and social consequences of not investing in training for social workers will be great.”
Sue Connell, trainee social worker at Wandsworth Council, south London
“Some of my student colleagues are being funded by the CWDC and they feel very appreciative to have that support. We’re really short on social workers and this could lead to more recruitment problems.
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails