Sector leaders condemn social work college split

Employers’ bodies and the General Social Care Council have refused to give their support to the British Association of Social Workers’ plans for a college of social work amid fears the development of two colleges will split the profession.

BASW, which has 13,000 members across the UK, said it was launching a college to ensure “only the highest standards of practice, training and employer support for a profession that has for too long been forced to settle for second class status”. It revealed plans to secure 51% of social workers in its membership by 2015, through a “massive investment in growth”.

But while many users of Community Care’s forum, CareSpace, welcomed the news, sector leaders were less optimistic.

Penny Thompson, chief executive of the GSCC, said the regulator “strongly supported” the Social Work Reform Board’s vision of a college.

She said: “BASW’s recent announcement jeopardises the hard work that has gone into establishing the reform board’s college.

“We would urge BASW and the College of Social Work to re-establish talks to create a single college for social work for the sake of the social workers who for so long have needed a voice.”

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services issued a joint statement: “We do not think it is in the interests of the social work profession for BASW to set up an alternative college, and we do not support BASW in their attempt to do so.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the College of Social Work said: “We are dismayed that BASW has unilaterally decided to announce the creation of ‘BASW – the College of Social Work’.

“BASW’s move will simply divide the profession when it needs to stand united to deal with the challenges that confront it.”

The spokesperson insisted the interim board of the College of Social Work remained committed to working with BASW, but added: “The board will not be pushed off course by BASW’s behaviour; we remain utterly committed to building a college developed and led by social workers.”

Despite this resistance, BASW will be formally seeking approval of its plans at its next annual general meeting on 26 May.

At the same meeting, the association will consult members on whether to establish a trade union arm.

In a letter to members, Fuller said: “The reason for this is to further promote the identity of social work, to have a bigger say over pay and conditions and to ensure that all members, wherever they work, can be properly supported at internal hearings.

“Please be assured that this does not represent an attack upon any trade union. In fact, we intend to work even more effectively alongside other trade unions in providing a more coherent voice for our profession.”

Unison, which represents more social workers than any other trade union, has been asked to respond.

Cost of membership

£220 – Annual membership of BASW

£270 – Project annual membership of the College of Social Work (non-Unison members)

£50 – Projected annual membership of the College of Social Work (Unison members)

CareSpace comments


Well, you wait ages for a single college of social work and then two come along at once! I am leaning toward the idea of a BASW college. One of the reasons I joined BASW as a student was due to the expertise of their advice and representation service. If this could be combined with legitimate trade union activities too, it seems like the perfect organisation to me.

Rupert M

I am delighted that BASW has taken the step that it has. I have to say that the proposed College of Social Work [and its] interim board have only themselves to blame. Rather than proceed in a more measured way they rushed headlong into a tie-up with Unison. Of late BASW has conducted a far more effective attack on many of the problems confronting social work.


Yet again it seems that we are showing the media and public that we cant agree on a fundamental issue within our profession. How can we expect members of the public to understand our profession if it appears that there is division and separation within it.


I just want convergence, not more and more separation. Although if [BASW] does become a union, I’ll be sorely tempted. My current gut feeling is swaying me more towards BASW than the [College of Social Work], because I feel they have reawakened themselves over the past few years. I just wish they’d taken this step about a year or more ago. I wish it didn’t all seem so complicated.

BASW threatens legal action over name ‘college of social work’

Social work sector weakened by rift in leadership over colleges: Community Care editorial comment

What do you think of BASW’s plans? Join the debate on CareSpace

Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.