The breakdown in talks between The College of Social Work and the British Association of Social Workers is “desperately disappointing”, a social work expert has warned.
The collapse of the talks means social workers will be left with “disparate voices” after two years of efforts to create a unified voice, said Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University.
He said the news “did not bode well for the College” as it has “not been able to establish itself as a unified voice, which was always what it promised it might be”. Jones suggested BASW may have been strengthened because of its “larger membership, higher media profile at this time and its offer to social workers being more extensive”.
The talks broke down over the College’s rejection of the idea that any unified professional body provide an advice and representation function to members, as is offered by BASW’s arm’s-length union, the Social Workers Union.
The news was revealed in an exchange of letters between the two organisations, published today by BASW, in which the College also revealed it would soon re-start its process of appointing its first chief executive.
Speaking to Community Care before news of the breakdown in talks, former care services minister Paul Burstow spoke of his frustration at the College and BASW’s failure to agree a way forward to create a unified body.
“One of the things that I’ve been frustrated with in the last two years has been the inability of the social work profession itself to come to a single place where there was a clear single voice,” said Burstow, who returned to the backbenches this month after two years as minister. “The disputes between BASW and the College have been very distracting, very debilitating, haven’t allowed a clear voice for social work to emerge yet.”
He said yesterday’s report into the Rochdale child sexual exploitation case – which found social workers’ failed to intervene to protect victims they saw as “making their own choices’ – illustrated the need for a strong, unified voice for the profession.
“[With] the shocking reports today which inevitably put social work in the firing line, I think you do need a much stronger social work voice to make the case about poor leadership by senior management, systemic failings that leave social workers greatly exposed, poor practice training and some of those other issues that can often lead to, if not the horrendous things that have been uncovered in Rochdale, other failures as well,” said Burstow.