Social work training must be extended to at least three years, say social work organisations

In their response to the government’s five-year review of social
work training council CCETSW, the Association of Directors of
Social Services, CCETSW and the British Association of Social
Workers all call for a longer training period to bring social work
into line with other professions.The ADSS believes a fundamental
reappraisal of the Diploma in Social Work is needed to ensure
training prepares social workers for the rigours of the job.
Directors want an independent national examination which
objectively tests students, understanding and knowledge of social
work practice and their ability to analyse and conceptualise
information. “Relative to other professional training, social work
training is brief and relatively cheap,” says the ADSS submission.
“In this context, one only has to look at the training available
for doctors, lawyers, solicitors, dentists to further emphasise
this point.”Entry to the profession should “by and large be
graduate based”, it adds. “Exceptions should only be made for
mature students, who can demonstrate evidence of recent study and
appropriate conceptual ability, and consideration may need to be
given to rigorous entrance examinations.”Another alternative is for
students to undergo a year’s probation before being issued a
diploma, say directors.But BASW, while committed to extended
training, believes the government needs to tackle funding for
social work training.The huge drop in DipSW applications has been
blamed on the government’s refusal to exempt social work students
from tuition fees, which could leave students between £8,500
and £15,000 worse off. There are fears that the student
drought could get worse if the training period is extended.”We are
very concerned that overall student funding has reached crisis
point, and in social work we are really feeling the pinch. In the
next couple of years there is going to be a real shortage of social
workers,” said a BASW spokesperson.”We are hearing a lot of
rhetoric about the government’s propensity for education,
education, education but we would like to see some commitment to it
with regard to social work.”

The association also says the current education and training
framework is “fragmented, cumbersome and imperfect”.

It wants to see regional and sub-regional assessment centres,
“which would bring together all employers at a strategic planning
level and provide quality assurance for programmes and their
content, practice teachers, placement provision and funding.”

Scrapping placement assessment and its funding from universities
would free time and resources to allow for a better knowledge and
research base for social work practice.

BASW believes its proposed method of assessing knowledge would
also enable more constructive partnerships between universities and
assessment centres, which could be monitored regionally.

The assessment of professional judgement in social work could be
best gauged through the establishment of regional review teams made
up of social workers, users and carers. This could be part of the
requirement for registration with the General Social Care Council,
which is to take over social work training regulation from

Peer review would play a major role in this kind of assessment
where social workers would need to demonstrate knowledge, skills
and professional ethics gained through practice and study.

“The main criterion for the assessment of learning outcomes
should be an individual’s ability to demonstrate and meet the
criteria for achieving agreed levels in education and occupational
competence,” says BASW.

BASW members are also concerned that qualified social workers
working outside local authorities may be overlooked by the review
and that educational institutions, service users, carers and
employers may skew the development of qualifying social work
training to reflect “their own vested interests”.

Meanwhile in its submission CCETSW calls for a fixed term for
registration and for re-registration to be linked to social workers
successfully completing post-qualifying awards.

CCETSW also points out the need for a smooth transition of
training regulation from it to the new GSCC.

Access to funding for training must be maintained at current
CCETSW levels, it adds.

Professionals call for three year diploma with exam

Union seeks inquiry as Bromley team quits

The entire management team employed to run a home care contract
for Bromley Council has quit in the last three months amid claims
of “intolerable” working conditions which were compromising
clients’ quality of care.

Unison is demanding that the council terminate its contract with
the South Essex Special Needs Housing Association and launch a full

The union claims its warnings over the dangers of placing
council services in the hands of private contractors have proved
true and believes there is a case for bringing them back

SESNHA is one of three outside agencies which, since last
August, have provided home care for the London local authority.

A former SESNHA manager told Community Care the whole management
team had resigned since November 1998 – one left within about 10
days of starting.

“We were shattered even though we had only been there a few
weeks ourselves. There are only 24 hours in a day and I was working
18 of them. The management team employed by SESNHA were all very
experienced in this field. They were under no illusion as to what
would be involved in taking over a contract of this kind.

“We were very worried that our clients – vulnerable, elderly
people – were not getting the services they should have been.”

The manager and two others who resigned in January raised the
alarm, saying the lives of the elderly and disabled people in
Bromley were being put at risk.

Company chairman Charles Bidmead denied all the allegations,
saying they were “completely fabricated and shocking”.

He also said the staff who resigned in January had asked for
their jobs back but were turned down.

Bidmead claimed that they were not up to the job and the
excessive hours were due to their failure to recruit enough

Jenny Mogridge, assistant director of Bromley social services,
said: “We had heard of some of these allegations and we have asked
for hard evidence from Unison so we can follow them up.

“So far that evidence has not been produced.”

“Outsiders” may rule at GSCC

Social workers fear that outsiders will regulate the profession
if existing plans for the make-up of the General Social Care
Council are given the go-ahead.

The social services White Paper proposes that the GSCC should
have a maximum membership of 25. It also envisages that the new
regulatory body will be chaired by a lay person and the majority of
the members will be service users and lay members.

Ian Johnston, acting director of the British Association of
Social Workers, said staff were worried. “The notion that it’s
going to be more than 50 per cent non-professionals is the thing.
We are concerned about professionals being outweighed by others.
Does that mean we are not trusted to put our own house in

Johnston also questioned whether or not the council would
contain sufficient expertise to regulate the profession.

Meanwhile the training council CCETSW’s Northern Ireland
committee has called for social workers’ registration with the GSCC
to be renewable every five years.

It also wants re-registration to be “linked to on-going
professional development and a robust post-qualifying

Views from the four CCETSW committees will be fed into the
Department of Health’s continuing consultation.

Consortium aims to step up the pace of adoption

Thurrock and neighbouring Havering and Southend councils have
launched a consortium to speed adoption.

The consortium was launched after all three social services
departments experienced delays in placing children.

The three adoption teams will work together, tripling the number
of potential adoptive parents available.

They will also run joint training and recruitment campaigns.

Mark Gurrey, Thurrock’s head of children and family services,
said: “Each council has a growing number of children who need a
placement, many with complex needs, which we often cannot meet

The initiative is also expected to make savings by cutting down
on the cost of agency placements when councils cannot find their
own adopters.

Family plan to sue over Mallorca death

The brother of a man with severe learning difficulties who was
found dead after vanishing on holiday is to lodge a formal
complaint against Kent Council.

Barry Denne, who was a resident at Oakley House, a private home
in Folkestone, was with another resident and two carers on a
holiday in Mallorca last October when he disappeared. His body was
found on wasteland more than a month later.

His brother and guardian Ian Denne will complain that the
council failed to offer help after Barry’s disappearance and they
had to ask for information.

“We got the impression that nobody offered help because it would
be an admission of guilt,” said Ian Denne.

A report into the disappearance shows council inspectors were
told that the two care workers with Barry Denne when he went
missing had had a few drinks.

The home had no written alcohol policy for care workers either
at the unit or abroad and no written procedures when residents went

But the report concluded the home was well run and the council
will continue to place people with learning difficulties there.

This has angered Denne, who said there was a “very good chance”
that he will sue the home. “We paid them for 24-hour care which he
didn’t get. They took him out there and he never came back.”

Hackney to axe private agencies

The London Borough of Hackney plans to cut dramatically the
number of private agencies providing home care services after an
investigation uncovered poor standards of care given to

Graeme Betts, Hackney’s former director of older people’s
services, now director at Hillingdon, said the social services
department had decided 29 or 30 agencies was too many, and now
plans to introduce block contracts with about five providers.

At the same time, the department decided to examine the standard
of care provided by both the agencies and its own in-house service.
Surveys of clients had found a high satisfaction rate, but officers
were unconvinced and decided to establish the Operation Stoneheart
investigation, which ran between August and October 1998. Council
officers found services did not meet required standards in more
than half of the cases investigated. They raised 29 concerns about
time keeping, highlighted 13 occasions where quality of care was an
issue, and recommended that 12 care packages be re-assessed.

“Operation Stoneheart was about timing when home carers arrived
or left and visiting to see what they had done,” said Betts. “As a
result, we sent our findings to the agencies involved, including
the in-house service, and asked them what they were going to

The local authority last week advertised for expressions of
interest from agencies wanting to take on the work, and expects to
draw up a shortlist by April.

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