Tories propose high-flyer scheme for social work entrants

University graduates should be fast-tracked into social work under a “high flyer” scheme proposed by the Conservatives today.

In a report for the Tories claiming looked-after children’s reforms have failed under Labour, a group of experts said the scheme was among a range of measures needed to “revitalise” the profession.

The scheme, dubbed Care First, would be modelled on a similar project for teachers, Teach First, which has been partly funded by private donors since it began in 2003.  The report, produced by the Tories’ children in care working group, also proposed that high-flying managers with specialist skills including finance could be recruited into social services departments.

Lack of investment

The group blamed the government’s failure to improve the welfare of looked-after children on a lack of investment in the workforce. It said private employers such as Marks and Spencer or HSBC with expertise in hiring and developing staff should be drafted in to lend councils help in exchange for tax deductions.

The report, Couldn’t Care Less, produced for the Tories’ centre for social justice, also proposed boosting the social work profession by bringing in the role of social pedagogue more widely, and increasing incentives for social workers to stay in frontline practice.

Other recommendations included strengthening children’s rights to take legal action against councils for care failings, and more support  for families, kinship carers and  foster carers.

Better alternatives

The report also suggested promoting “better alternatives” to poorly performing young offender institutions by rolling out more “welfare-minded” secure accommodation, special schools and intensive fostering.

The report’s authors, made up of social care professionals and researchers, argued that the government had “failed strategically” by not tackling the reasons why children went into care and not ensuring that councils delivered quality results.

Iain Duncan Smith, head of the centre for social justice, said: “Ironically, the plight of children in care is so dreadful that if they were living with their natural parents, the state would insist on taking them into care.”

More information

Report: Couldn’t Care Less

Social work blog: Something borrowed, something blue?

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