Behind the headlines

Community care minister Stephen Ladyman announced earlier this
month that “social worker” is to become a title protected by law.
From April 2005 anyone practising without registering with the
General Social Care Council could be fined up to £5,000. The
move is part of a drive to raise the status of social care to match
that of the medical and legal professions. But so far the workforce
has been slow to embrace the changes and fewer than 5,000 of
England’s estimated 60,000 social workers have signed up to the

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“How social work is viewed by the public runs a lot deeper than the
title and it is naive of Ladyman to think that by introducing a
register he will elevate the status of social workers to that of
doctors or lawyers. If he really wanted to do that, he would embark
on a debate about the role and purpose of social work and have a
proper education campaign to explain it to the public. Moreover,
part of the high status of lawyers and doctors is directly linked
to their incomes and increasing pay is one way to enhance
credibility and attract and retain good staff.”

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“It would be churlish not to welcome these developments, and the
prospect of a hefty fine should certainly increase registration
levels. However, let’s not get carried away with comparisons with
doctors and lawyers, who have more control over professional entry
and greater financial rewards than social work can ever expect to
achieve. The key thing is the promotion of high professional
standards. As a first step, social workers will have to accept
greater responsibility for their own continuing professional

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“I strongly welcome the new ‘protected’ nature of the title of
social work and the drive to achieve registration by 2005. I’m
confident that we’ll get there – we have to – we owe it to our
public and service users! Probably like many of us, I needed a
reminder, and the GSCC’s ‘Is Reg waiting for you?’ advertisements
certainly did that for me.

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“I am all in favour of the professionalisation of social work, but
protecting the title of ‘social worker’ would not help me feel that
my status had been elevated. I would not want to achieve the status
that is afforded to doctors and lawyers. I want the service users I
work with to feel that they can develop a meaningful relationship
with me so we can work collaboratively on effecting change.
Sometimes having a title can prevent engagement as a ‘them and us’
situation develops.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“It is absolutely right that there are clear criteria which must be
met before you can call yourself ‘social worker’ – common
qualifications, access to ongoing training and a shared value base.
Think of the discredit to the profession caused by the ‘independent
social worker’ who assessed the Kilshaws as suitable adopters when
they tried to adopt twins through the internet. We need public
confidence to do our work well and to attract high calibre new

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