Martin Narey is tired of being criticised. So tired, in fact, that the adviser to Michael Gove and author of a report on social work commissioned by the Department of Education has produced a slideshow refuting point by point some of the criticisms levelled at his work.
In his report, Narey recommends universities in England should offer specialist children’s social work degrees, as well as publishing clear guidance on what a newly qualified social worker needs to know in order to practice. He also suggests social work courses need to have higher standards for acceptance, claiming some less scrupulous courses are churning out graduates who are “barely literate.”
Critics of the review of social work in England, however, suggest its recommendations are based on anecdote rather than evidence.
Others feared that he would undermine the College of Social Work, suggest the closure of university departments and, in the words of one social work academic, say that “all newly qualified social workers are hopeless,” Narey said.
Narey hit back against detractors of the report, describing claims, including those that it is not evidence-based, as “patent nonsense.”
“My report is littered with evidence. The only people who have been saying that are a handful of academics who are resistant to change.”
He claims many of the concerns about his report were raised by people who assumed they knew what he was going to say before they’d even read it
Narey insists that authorities as diverse as Lord Laming, the General Medical Council, the National Student Survey and the NSPCC were used to evidence his report.
The report was commissioned by education secretary Michael Gove after the Department of Health asked Skills for Care chair David Croisdale-Appleby to produce an almost identical enquiry into social work education.
The report’s timing has sparked concerns that a lack of communication between the departments could jeopardise the successful implementation of change.
Narey, however, is adamant that the duplication is no accident.
“We did two because of the growing conviction that children’s and adults’ social work have become very different things and need to be dealt with separately.”
Academics who have criticised the report have been unwilling to engage in a discussion, according to Narey who says he has “tried to initiate discussion.”
“I have made it very plain I am willing to speak to universities but academics have not been forthcoming.”
“I did speak at Sheffield Hallam University and we had a very good discussion about the importance of children’s social workers getting a placement in statutory children’s services.”
Chief social worker Isabelle Trowler is to publish a list of recommendations from the report, which Narey says is “moving along with great momentum.”
“There has been an active and enthusiastic discussion between the Department of Health and the Department for Education in the Cabinet, which I’ve found very encouraging,” Narey says.
“Changes to social work education are going to happen. The how is still up for debate.”