Hughes wants to sharpen child social workers’ skills

The social work degree could be strengthened to give child and family social workers better preparation for dealing with looked-after children, children’s minister Beverley Hughes has told Community Care.

Following the publication of the looked-after children white paper, Hughes, a former social work lecturer, said she was concerned that training had “moved away from important subjects” such as child development over the past two decades.

“There is a question of how far the current social work degree is teaching people about child development and attachment and resilience theory that are crucial for working with children in care,” Hughes said. “The whole architecture of practice has changed but is people’s learning reflecting the demands of the Every Child Matters framework?”

She said that social workers would “not understand” the impact on looked-after children of being moved between placements “time and time again” if they did not have training in attachment theory.

While the white paper contains a proposal to explore options for “greater child specialisation” in social work qualifying degrees, Hughes backed up recent comments from care services minister Ivan Lewis that there were no plans to create separate degrees for children’s and adults’ social workers.

She added that discussions on more child specialisation would begin this week. “We are nowhere near redrafting the degree but we will be looking at the content and seeing if elements need strengthening,” she said.

Hughes also said that a white paper proposal to create a newly qualified social worker status, giving a guarantee of support, training and induction to child and family social workers, would be similar to an existing scheme for newly qualified teachers.

The white paper pledges to review training and support for newly qualified social workers “who may quickly become overloaded, leading to disillusionment and burn out”.

Hughes said there were no details on the scheme as yet although she suggested the induction could run for a year and could involve looking at the size of caseloads given to newly qualified social workers.

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 Maria Ahmed

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