Scottish sector chief unconvinced of need for UK-wide college

Social workers in Scotland may not need a national college to support their profession as there are already enough bodies fulfilling this role.

That was the message from the new chief executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, Anna Fowlie, who spoke out after talks to establish a national college of social work in England began last month.

The final report of the Social Work Task Force said the new body was needed to provide “strong, independent leadership; a clear voice in public debate, policy development and policy delivery; and strong ownership of standards” for the profession.

While the college is part of a programme of reform for the profession in England, the report said the new body could be extended to cover the whole of the UK, which the British Association of Social Workers strongly supports.

College unneeded

However, Fowlie said her organisation was already “leading the way in improving education and training, encouraging people to go into a career in social work and increasing public confidence in the profession” in Scotland.

While admitting that social workers needed a stronger voice, she said: “We encourage existing representational bodies to address this.”

“Social work is a valuable profession which is essential to supporting vulnerable people in an increasingly complex environment,” Fowlie explained. “We need to question whether Scotland or the UK needs a national college when there are already established representational and regulatory bodies that carry out this role.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said it would need further details on the remit and priorities of the national college before deciding on any links it might have with Scotland.

The other devolved nations have yet to commit to supporting a national college in their regions.

Northern Ireland backing

However, the Northern Ireland executive backed the idea in principle.

Sean Holland, acting chief social services officer for Northern Ireland, told Community Care: “The UK is made up of four administrations and both the people of these four countries and the workforce move across borders. To have one college representing the profession would be of great benefit in promoting consistency in social work standards across the UK.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh assembly government said an ongoing review of the way social services in Wales are delivered, commissioned by ministers in June last year, would cover “all aspects of the social services workforce”.

“As part of this [the group] will monitor the developments of the national college in England and will consider whether it could be beneficial for Wales.”

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