Val Vinall asks whether a social work qualification will be
needed with Labour’s future agenda.
Much has been said about young people no longer wishing to enter
the caring profession. Perhaps it’s time to commission some
research into the chaos surrounding entry into the social work
world. For a decade it has been very difficult for those who are
interested to get a clear and accurate picture on how to enter
social work, or about what to expect when they get there.
School leavers interested in caring or social work are offered
nursery nursing courses, care or child care national vocational
qualifications, higher national diploma or higher national
certificate. GNVQs can be achieved in sixth forms or colleges. None
of these courses will give young people an insight into the work of
a field social worker, unless by chance a qualified social worker
just happens to be part of the teaching team.
Instead tutors depend on the quality of their local contacts for
accurate information, or some type of work placement, while college
care sections can be a minor part of unrelated departments. Where
teaching is good and up-to-date, there is still a vacuum in terms
of career guidance from professionals aware of all aspects of the
complicated and information-starved system.
Young people enter courses believing they are a route into a
career only to find with dismay that, generally, none of these
courses would mean much to a local authority recruiting into
unqualified social worker posts.
How are those wishing to enter the field to do it? Placements
with social work teams are rare, and in any event, may be
impracticable. Traineeships have all but disappeared. Working as a
carer is often cited as a way in, but it is not an appropriate
preparation for all social work roles. Access courses for mature
students have been a route in for many. But gaining appropriate
experience is difficult.
The social work and education establishments have failed
aspiring social workers and carers in large numbers. The DipSW
review offers its vision and recommendations to be achieved over a
period of several years which, if ever drawn together, would
address many of the concerns above.
However, they were written prior to the open expression of the
New Labour agenda, which will break up social services departments
and by definition splinter the social work profession. A much
greater question is whether social work as a profession will
continue at all. If we want it to, agencies, awarding bodies and
education providers need to work together now to create clear and
I do not really believe we have run out of potential workers,
but getting this right is a major task with resource implications –
is there the will and interest at policy level?
Val Vinall is a staff development manager in a social
services department with 14 years’ experience of social work and