The man charged with overseeing changes to social work regulation in England has criticised recent efforts to create a single college for the profession.
Harry Cayton, chief executive of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, said he was “disappointed” by the actions of the College of Social Work and British Association of Social Workers over the past six months, after the two organisations repeatedly failed to reach an agreement that would see them merge into a single body.
“To have that disagreement going on just at a time when social workers need good leadership is very disappointing,” he said.
Cayton chairs the group tasked with overseeing the transfer of responsibility for regulating social workers in England from the General Social Care Council to the Health Professions Council, which is due to take place in July 2012.
He pointed out that a strong professional body such as a college was needed to balance the role of the regulator.
“A proper professional group has a regulator and a strong professional association that promotes the profession and high standards,” he said. “But we haven’t got that in social work because of the fragmentation on the professional side.”
The College of Social Work and BASW signed a memorandum of understanding in April, agreeing to work towards merging into a single body.
However, Community Care revealed last week that the memorandum was on shaky ground, with both organisations accepting the need for third-party mediation. It is understood unresolved issues include the College’s tie-up with Unison, as well as questions about the leadership and structure of the new college.
Cayton said: “We need some real leadership from the profession, which is not about complaining about other people, but ought to be about showing how important social work is.”
He added: “I would love to see a strong, single college of social work, and I think the leaders in social work need to sit down and ensure that comes about.”
A spokesperson for the College of Social Work said it “absolutely agrees” that social workers desperately need strong professional leadership.
The spokesperson added: “Over the past few months the College of Social Work has been working with many stakeholders and partners in an open, honest and transparent manner and we have very positive and effective relationships with virtually all of these organisations.
“We will continue to seek to establish an equally strong and positive relationship with BASW.”
A spokesperson for BASW said: “The task of creating the sort of college the social work profession needs is an enormous undertaking and it is inevitable that there will be areas of difficulty to overcome.
“Both organisations are fully committed to the creation of a single, strong and cohesive college and are presently actively involved in extremely positive discussions.”
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