Sector seeks reassurance on plans for social worker support staff

Government plans to remodel the children’s workforce along the
lines followed by the teaching profession must not undermine the
role of social workers, staff representatives have warned.

Proposals to give social workers more time to “concentrate on the
complex work that needs their skills,” are in the children’s
workforce strategy, which cites the changes in schools including
the increased work done by classroom assistants as an example that
may be followed. But the National Union of Teachers has argued that
this is a money-saving exercise to replace teachers with
less-qualified support staff.

British Association of Social Workers director Ian Johnston warned
that remodelling should not be used as a way of replacing social
workers or of dealing with the recruitment problems in the
profession. But he said a model which made the best use of social
workers’ skills and involved support from one or two assistants
could be “quite attractive”.

Caroline Abrahams, director of public policy at children’s charity
NCH, said remodelling should be seen as “an opportunity not a
threat”. She said the policy could mean the recruitment of more
family support workers who would provide practical help to children
and families.

But she warned that proposals to introduce social pedagogues, who
would provide overall education, health and social care support,
particularly to looked-after children, must not be at the expense
of specialist social workers. The children’s workforce needed both
specialists and generalists, and pedagogues should work alongside
children’s social workers and not be an alternative to them,
Abrahams said.

The strategy also suggests that social workers be given the role of
“lead professionals” in which they would manage the relationship
between different agencies where multiple interventions were

Having a lead professional was a good idea and could be a useful
contact for other services such as schools but they need not
necessarily be a social worker, Abrahams said.

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