Universities offering social work degree courses are “filling places” under financial pressure rather than ensuring they attract the most able candidates, a sector leader has claimed.
In an interview with Community Care, Michael Leadbetter, chair of the Children’s Workforce Development Council, called for more rigour in the selection process for degree courses, claiming it was currently “patchy”.
Leadbetter suggested that candidates should be tested for their “emotional intelligence and resilience” by doing compulsory role-plays.
Challenge to employers and universities
“Universities and employers have got to take their responsibility seriously and challenge candidates, so they can see whether they will be able to deal with very, very difficult people,” he said.
Speaking after he submitted CWDC’s proposals for the Social Work Taskforce, which is considering the future of the profession, Leadbetter said recruitment and selection procedures could be strengthened by statutory guidance or performance indicators.
Leadbetter also indicated that CWDC would press the government to ensure money for vulnerable children’s services was protected by a ring-fenced budget. This was also proposed by Lord Laming in his safeguarding review earlier this month, although local government leaders have rejected the idea as ‘unworkable‘.
‘Cycle of despair’
Leadbetter warned that highly publicised tragedies like Baby P had drawn social work into a “cycle of despair and defensiveness”. He hit out at professional bodies that “blamed a lack of resources” for failings and urged them to communicate more effectively with the public and the media.
“Social workers should not be on the defensive, despite the difficult economic climate and publicity after Baby P. Now is the time to say that this profession is valuable and we need it,” he said.
Michael Leadbetter, chair of CWDC