Funding doubts raised at Social Work Task Force proposals

The Social Work Task Force’s recommendations on a probationary year, a college of social work and a binding standard for employers on caseloads and continuing professional development (CPD) have been welcomed by academics, charities and social workers. But there are concerns about how the recommendations will be funded.

Rosie Varley, chair of the General Social Care Council (GSCC), backed the principle of a probationary year. “Too often social workers are expected to rise to the most difficult social work challenges without adequate supervision, training and experience,” she said.

She hoped a national college of social work would fill the gap in challenging misconceptions and educating the public about social workers, “enabling the GSCC to focus on our role in protecting the public”.

Varley said she looked forward to working with the government and the Reform Programme Board to examine how changes in regulation could be achieved efficiently and effectively.

Licence to practise

But frontline social workers on Community Care’s online forum, Carespace, questioned whether the report would be fully implemented. One wrote: “Social work history is littered with half-implemented recommendations. Where are the additional resources during a time of public spending contraction and increase in social care needs?”

Another questioned whether a licence to practise and the national college would increase costs to frontline workers: “It’s potentially a recipe for hitting us in our pockets to enable us to practice our profession.” However, she said the recommendation of a probationary year was “brilliant and well overdue”.

Barnardo’s deputy chief executive Chris Hanvey said the licence to practise would strengthen the quality of the profession as a whole. Although there will be no cap on caseloads, the introduction of a monitoring system would help ensure they were managed. Hanvey was looking forward to hearing how the reform plan would be resourced, a sentiment echoed by Shaun Kelly, head of safeguarding at Action for Children who said all the measures “must be properly funded”.

Skills for Care also welcomed the binding employer standard on CPD and workloads claiming it would build on some of the training body’s existing work with the GSCC on practice learning toolkits.

Accountable and transparent

Peter Beresford, professor of social policy at Brunel University, said the call for the involvement of service users in the proposed college showed a keen understanding of the need to be inclusive, accountable and transparent.

“In uncertain political times, this is as good as we are likely to get for the future of social work,” Beresford said.

Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said the taskforce had been “spot on” in its analysis of the difficulties for social work and “its mapping of the way forward is on the right track”.

“We must not now let it trickle away as the press and politicians turn their attention elsewhere. The task has started with the taskforce but does not finish with it.”

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