Individual social workers should be graded as part of wider service inspections, former Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) president Alan Wood said yesterday.
He added social workers could learn from models in education in which every school has a record of which staff members are excellent or requiring improvement, and individual teachers are encouraged to learn from the good practice of their peers.
Speaking at a debate on the social care recruitment crisis hosted by recruitment firm, Penna, he said: “We are resistant to the idea some social workers are better than others.
One word judgements
“We should look to have gradings of individual staff members as part of inspections, but not in simplistic one word judgements.”
The director of Hackney’s children’s services has courted controversy before, slamming academics for turning out “crap social workers”.
At the time, he said: “We don’t have a problem with a lack of social workers, we have a problem with a lack of quality social workers.”
At the debate yesterday he reiterated the message social work reform must start with the reform of the education system.
Wood called for practice-based training, a specialised qualification route into children’s social work and more innovation in how services are delivered.
He added: “We didn’t have the courage to see the work around social work practices through. We backed off at the first sign of criticism.”
But he cited Slough and Doncaster, both councils forced to move their children’s services into independent trusts at the direction of the Department for Education, as examples of councils starting to become “more willing to think in different ways”.
Wood oversaw the development of the “Hackney model”, where social workers manage cases in units. The unit model has been employed by the Frontline fast track scheme for participants in their first year in local authorities.
Jo Cleary, former chair of the now-defunct College of Social Work, said she agreed with Wood about the need for innovation and stronger practice leadership but disagreed with his views around social work education.
She said: “I would never, never agree on dividing the profession.”