The College of Social Work has often talked about its role in giving social work professional leadership, raising standards and influencing government policy. But what does this actually mean in practice?
This autumn, we’ll be developing a new system of “faculties,” linking our members together in professionally led specialist networks, which will enable social workers themselves to drive forward policy and practice in their own fields. Our three faculties, for work with adults, children and mental health, will be represented on our board and be a powerful presence in the College.
The faculty model is what enables GPs, psychiatrists, surgeons and nurses, for example, to take charge of their own professional destiny, set standards in line with the latest thinking and research, and promote excellence in their work with patients.
Social work faculties will support networks, which will act as forums for the exchange of experience, knowledge and research, as well as providing opportunities for education, training and professional development and influencing public policy.
Each faculty will have several “communities of interest” within it. These will be decided by the membership, but obvious communities of interest within the mental health faculty would include one for approved mental health professionals, another for forensic social workers and one more for substance misuse.
By getting together in faculty networks, social workers’ experience and expertise can be harnessed for the good of the profession so as to avoid the mistakes of the past. Would child protection workers have been saddled with the integrated children’s system if they had had a proper say in the matter? Would social workers with adults have had to deal with so much uncertainty about their role in personalised services? The answer would be “no”.
These are the mistakes that happen when non-social workers, usually policy-makers in Whitehall, decide what is best for social workers rather than social workers themselves. Our faculty system is an opportunity to end the top-down policymaking which has undermined social work over the years and hand power to social workers.
Maurice Bates and Corinne May-Chahal are the interim co-chairs of The College of Social Work
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