Chief social worker proposal divides sector leadership

    Proposals from MPs for councils to appoint chief social workers to provide practitioners with professional leadership have split the sector.

    In its report last week, the children, schools and families select committee called on the government to pilot the role, which could include taking charge of practice learning and ensuring practitioners, potentially across adults as well as children’s services, had adequate supervision.

    The British Association of Social Workers backed the idea in evidence to the committee saying chief social workers could help protect practitioners against pressure to meet targets to the detriment of good practice.

    Former BASW chair Ray Jones, now professor of social work at Kingston University, said he had previously argued for such a role which would be particularly useful where children’s directors lacked a social work background, as in the majority of cases.

    He urged the government to make the role a requirement, with protections for postholders to enable them to comment independently on practice

    However, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services rejected the idea. Vice-president Marion Davis said all children’s services departments had either a director or assistant director with substantial social work experience who could bring this to bear in policy decisions. She also said she could not see what it would add to current plans to pilot advanced social worker status in children’s services departments, enabling experienced practitioners to remain on the frontline.

    “To create a post representing the interests of social workers within children’s services departments risks alienating other professionals in the sector who will feel underrepresented,” she said. “We do not have a chief teacher, chief youth worker or chief early years specialist.”

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