Fast track social work education schemes such as Frontline and Step Up to Social Work must not be allowed to become a two-tier training system, directors of children’s services have warned.
President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Alison O’Sullivan, told the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth that social work reform must not “inadvertently destabilise the system we are aiming to strengthen”.
She said the new schemes, as well teaching partnerships, had introduced fresh momentum to the development of high quality initial social work training.
Manage the supply
“But we must make sure that we don’t create a two tier training system and we must keep an overview of the market for initial training to ensure we manage the supply of high quality social work staff in future.”
O’Sullivan also expressed fears that the government’s proposed accreditation system for children’s social workers should not increase bureaucracy.
While agreeing the introduction of three assessed and accredited statuses had the potential to improve consistency and confidence in social workers – particularly among the judiciary – she said care must be taken to ensure implementation was not “over-elaborate”.
“And it must be embedded within arrangements that local authorities already have for career development and progression. We must keep coherence with adult social work. And, it must not become an additional burden or distraction.”
In a separate session the chief social worker for adults’ services, Lyn Romeo, said she expected early testing of the accreditation system in children’s services would help ensure implementation did not become bureaucratic.
Romeo also delivered a speech by Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children, who was unable to be at the conference.
In the speech Trowler told delegates: “We have focused on initial education for many years and it’s not sufficient. We need to extend it. We are about to test the validity of accreditation.”
Important when commissioning services
She heralded a practice leader’s development programme, due to launch next year, and said she also expected 2016 to bring about big changes in how children’s services are developed and inspected.
“Accreditation will become increasingly important for councils commissioning out their services because councils will know if an organisation hires a fully accredited team of social workers.”
Trowler also claimed accreditation would have an impact on agency numbers and save money, although the speech did not elaborate on how this conclusion was arrived at.