Personalisation ‘wrongly used to devalue social workers’

Adult social work is being 'devalued' by cuts and mistaken ideas about personalisation, The College of Social Work warned today as it launched a campaign to champion adults' professionals.

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Adult social work is being ‘devalued’ by cuts and mistaken ideas about personalisation, The College of Social Work warned today as it launched a campaign to champion adults’ professionals.

It warned that some councils were wrongly seeing social workers as an “optional extra” as they rolled out personal budgets, which risked denying budget users the benefits of the advocacy and holistic advice that professionals could bring to support planning.

The College is responding to concerns over social workers being replaced by non-qualified staff in the assessment and care management process, seeing their jobs become more bureaucratised by the new processes brought in under personalisation or losing their jobs as councils implemented government cuts.

“A toxic mix of cuts and mistaken ideas about personalisation has led some people to suggest that social work is an ‘optional extra’ in the world of adult social care,” said College public affairs adviser Owen Davies. “If politicians at national and local level think they can downgrade [social workers’] role then they are heading for trouble. The risk is that, at a basic level, there will be more people with inappropriate care plans lacking the help they need to spend their personal budgets wisely and creatively.”

The College is holding a summit today to debate the future of adult social work, which will be addressed by Department of Health senior civil servant Glen Mason and local government leaders, among others.

Its campaign received an early boost on Tuesday, when care services minister Paul Burstow said that social work would be at the heart of the government’s forthcoming care White Paper, which will set out long-term reforms to adult social care. Burstow rejected the idea that adult social work should be an “optional extra” for social care, and set out a vision of practitioners moving away from care management towards community development.

Alongside the summit, the College is publishing a report today on adult social workers’ own perceptions of their role and its value, drawn from three events held last autumn.

Practitioners said social work’s uniqueness, compared with other professions, consisted in its fundamental commitment to human rights and social justice, and its ability to take a holistic view of individuals.

They also felt social workers faced an inherent tension between advocating for vulnerable adults and meeting the objectives of the organisations that employed them, such as councils. While this tension could be a source of creative practice, it led to challenges for people managing social workers.

More on how personalisation has affected adult social work

The state of personalisation 2011   

Liberating social work from the shackles of care management  

Social workers fail to signpost service users to support  

Social workers’ support role should be reined in

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