Staff association pans Milburn’s plan for new role for social workers

Proposals by the health secretary to replace the traditional social
worker role with social care professionals with a broader range of
skills have been criticised by the British Association of Social

BASW’s chairperson Liz Timms told Community Care she was
“hard-pressed” to see any benefits in the combined roles put
forward by Alan Milburn at the National Social Services Conference
(news, page 6, 24 October).

She said: “We would be in favour of anything that would improve
collaboration but we would not be in favour of anything that fudged
the differences between professions. I don’t think it will work and
hope they think again.”

Concerns about the proposals have also been raised by front-line
social workers.

Chris Chambers, a mental health worker based in Somerset, said: “If
we are expected to become some sort of superworker, a pseudo
doctor, nurse and social worker all rolled into oneÉ well,
that’s more than one person can do.”

He added that he feared the move signalled a lack of faith in
partnership working. “[The government] hasn’t given partnership
working enough time to take off the ground before saying it doesn’t

Chief executive of the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors
Association Mark Jones said that he believed the impetus for the
new roles, one of which could be that of a family care worker who
would have the skills of a health visitor and social worker, came
from a shortage of social workers.

“More and more health visitors are doing social work because there
are not enough social workers doing preventive work, which is not
seen as an attractive enough job,” Jones said. “But the answer to
this problem is not to bolt social work onto the health visitor
role because that diminishes the public health work which we should
be doing.”

The General Social Care Council and the training organisation Topss
are now looking at how to create appropriate qualifications for the
new roles.

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