Leading children’s director Alan Wood has launched a shock attack on social work educators, accusing prominent universities of turning out “crap social workers”.
In an interview with the Guardian about outsourcing child protection, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), told the newspaper he took issue with “all these academics turning out crap social workers writing to the Guardian”.
Wood was referring to a letter, published in May and signed by around 40 leading academics, that raised concerns about the government’s consultation on outsourcing children’s services functions. The academics represented institutions including King’s College, London, Edinburgh University, Nottingham University and the University of East Anglia.
Today, academics and social workers expressed their surprise and dismay over the Hackney boss and ADCS president’s verdict on the state of social work education.
Professor Ray Jones, who co-ordinated the letter, said: “It is really unfortunate that we have comments made dismissing the competence and expertise of social work academics who have significant experience of working in child protection services.
“As the co-ordinator of the letter, which raised our concerns about government intentions for children’s services, I am a social worker who has undertaken and managed frontline child protection and spent 14 years as a director of social services.”
He continued: “I currently oversee child protection improvements for two days every week in three different areas of England. In all these areas, the directors of children’s services comment on the high quality of their recently qualified social workers and recognise them as the stars of the future. It is a shame that this perception is not shared in Hackney.”
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said: “I hope this quote has been taken out of context, but reading it as it appears in print it is so stark it is difficult to see how it could have been. It is very disappointing to read this, particularly from one of the current leaders in children’s social work.
“Firstly, our own training would tell us to refrain from making sweeping statements about any particular groups in society and, secondly, denigrating members of our own profession is surely not the way to go. Directors should know this better than others given the stinging comments made about them in the recent SOLACE report.
“BASW has many student members. We are very impressed with the talent that is out there and would urge everyone in social work to get behind the next generation of social workers.”
Chair of The College of Social Work Jo Cleary said: “Alan Wood makes many important points about the need for greater innovation and creativity in children’s social work. We were therefore dismayed by his strong and, in our view, inappropriate references to ‘crap social workers’.
“Such disparaging language from a national leader will not help raise professional morale nor encourage social worker and higher education institution engagement with change and reform. Poor social work practice is not acceptable and must be challenged. However, Alan Wood’s statement regrettably suggests that the calibre of all newly qualifying social workers is problematic when evidence indicates that this is simply not the case. There are excellent social workers qualifying from excellent HEIs.”
Community Care has approached the ADCS for comment.