College vision under fire from senior sector figures

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The College of Social Work should radically rethink its vision to focus on leading the sector, rather than offering its members material benefits.

That was the message of three former high-profile council members of the British Association of Social Workers, who warned the College against focusing too heavily on offering advice and representation.

In a letter to Community Care, Bill McKitterick, immediate past treasurer; Terry Bamford, ex-assistant general secretary and Ray Jones, former chair, urged the College to involve social workers’ expertise more widely.

“We are disturbed that the current proposals for the College of Social Work are too focused on ‘member benefits’ and not on developing the contribution of social workers in practice, practice education, research and leadership,” they said.

The letter was received following news of BASW’s proposal to form a rival organisation to the College.

Though not referring to this development directly, the senior BASW members warned against “members being represented by board governance of a largely staff-run organisation with a chief executive”.

“Over half of the social workers in England do not consider they need trade union representation or membership of BASW,” they wrote. “For them to join the College there needs to be a more ambitious and inclusive vision for the use of their energies and expertise which will radically reduce the costs, from the present estimate of £270 per year.”

The College announced details of its business plan last month, with a likely £270 annual membership fee and Unison members offered the chance to join for an additional £50 on top of their union fee. Employee representation services will be contracted out to Unison, with professional advice services provided by the College, due to be launched as a legal entity in April.

In a statement, the College insisted it was committed to representing social workers and promoting their interests, as well as to pursuing convergence talks with BASW.

“One of our overriding aims is to harness the ‘contribution of social workers in practice, practice education, research and leadership,” said College project director Dorit Braun. “Indeed, we would regard this as one of our most important member benefits.”

See full letter from McKitterick, Bamford and Jones

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