Social work degree may be split to reflect two sectors

Speculation is mounting that the government could soon propose a complete split in the professional training of adult, and children and families social workers.

Social Care Institute for Excellence chair Allan Bowman made the claim at a meeting last week of the Conservative Party’s commission into the future of social work, of which he is a member.

The commission questioned expert witnesses about the idea of separating the three-year degree course for children and families and adult social work students following a joint foundation year. Bowman said the government may be about to announce such a plan.

The idea of a split is thought to have come primarily from the Department for Education and Skills although spokespeople from both the DfES and Department of Health denied that it was being considered.

However, Andrea Rowe, chief executive of adult social care training body Skills for Care, said she had also heard a rumour that the split was being considered.

Rowe argued that the generic social work degree, which only launched in 2003, should remain, with specialisms introduced at post-qualification level.

She said: “We’ve only got one cohort of the social work degree out. It’s too early to make a judgment on whether it’s fit for purpose.”

Rowe said any decision should wait until a Department of Health evaluation of the degree had been completed.

But the idea won the backing of Association of Directors of Children’s Services representative Andrew Christie. He told the commission “we need to raise the bar” in terms of the expectations and training of children and families social workers with more specialist training around childcare issues.

Giving evidence to the commission, Christie added: “People are emerging from social work training not properly prepared for childcare social work.”

He said separate training would imply separate professional registration, although he suggested social workers could convert from one area to the other or even have double registration.

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 Simeon Brody

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