Has the government called time on training?

    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
    accessible pathways.

    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
    care training.

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