PROBLEM: Social workers do not feel that their profession speaks with a strong national voice or is well supported at a national level.
RECOMMENDATION: The creation of a national college of social work to promote the profession and drive up standards.
One of the most popular recommendations in the Social Work Task Force’s interim report in July was the formation of a national college.
During the public outcry over the Baby Peter case, many social workers expressed frustration at the lack of a strong professional voice explaining their perspective to the media or the public.
In a survey by the taskforce, 88% of social workers said the media attacks had made it more difficult for them to do their job.
Social workers also felt the profession as a whole was “failing to influence public policy, the media and national debate”, the interim report concluded.
In response, the taskforce called for a professional body based on the royal college model in medicine to be established to represent social work in public debates and policy development, promote the profession and drive up standards.
Now, in the taskforce’s final report, the launch of a national college has been confirmed as a central part of the plan to reform social work.
The government has accepted the recommendation in full, and is seeking to upgrade the college to royal status so that it can oversee standards and training.
Royal colleges such as those used by the medical professions often have special powers to license and set standards for the regulation of their members.
However, Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers and a vocal advocate for the college proposals, said he was “indifferent” to whether the college achieved royal status, as long as it was independent from the government.
The taskforce’s final report calls for independence, but the college will rely initially on government funding while it builds capacity.
“I want us to be in a position where any funding we do get from government is kept to a minimum and we raise membership and other forms of income very quickly,” said Dawson.