Social workers open up the debate on future professional standards

    National occupational standards for social work should include a
    practice teaching requirement, representatives from across the
    profession urged last week.

    The change, proposed during the initial stage of consultation on
    the new standards, would help redress the falling numbers of social
    workers entering practice teaching and encourage a learning culture
    and support system within the profession, it was claimed.

    Delegates at the first of a series of three workshops to
    “identify the main outline of social work practice and social work
    roles” also stressed the importance of the new standards
    recognising the role of evidence-based research, evaluation, and
    reflection in modern day practice.

    The standards, being drawn up by training body TOPSS, would also
    need to place sufficient emphasis on the interventionist role of
    the social worker, their ability to manage conflict and
    contradiction, and the value of their assessment skills.

    “I am very conscious that social work should not be just about
    managing other people and commissioning other services but about
    social workers’ skills of intervention – otherwise we are writing
    ourselves out of a job,” one delegate warned.

    Social work representatives also highlighted the need for the
    standards to acknowledge the influence of external factors on the
    social work role including performance indicators, resource
    restraints, new technologies and the wider social inclusion agenda.
    Continuous professional development or research requirements for
    individuals would also need to be supported by their

    However, there remained considerable doubt about how wide or
    narrow the standards’ remit should be, and how they would relate to
    the different specialities within social work and to other social
    care sector workers.

    There was agreement, though, that the standards would need to
    complement and incorporate the values and ethics of the new codes
    of conduct due to be drawn up by the incoming regulatory bodies in
    the four UK countries.

    The new national occupational standards for social work will be
    drafted between July and mid-September, before widespread
    consultation in October and November and introduction of the final
    standards in March 2002.

    The existing standards were drafted in 1994 but, although they
    were used to develop the core competences of the Diploma in Social
    Work, they have never been formally distributed and utilised in the

    Giles Darvill, National Institute for Social Work consultant and
    co-author of the paper behind the initial consultation stage, said
    the new standards would not only be for use in employment, but
    would be the “bedrock” on which service standards, the code of
    conduct, and the new social work degree curriculum would be

    “We want to identify all the main functions of social work
    before we get too much into the detail,” Darvill said. “Although we
    are not developing a curriculum for a new DipSW, we hope this will
    contribute to that.”

    The Future of Social Work stimulus paper from All responses
    must be returned by 29 June.

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.