Academic urges practitioners to pitch into reform debate

A leading academic is urging social workers and students to make their voices heard and “seize the moment” to shape the future of their profession.

Hilary Tompsett, head of the school of social work at Kingston University and St George’s, is urging practitioners to get involved in debates around the 10-year reform programme for social work in England, which began this year.

Tompsett sits on a government-appointed reform board set up to oversee improvements to training, recruitment and leadership as recommended by the Social Work Task Force.

Speaking ahead of the second meeting of the reform board today she praised the taskforce recommendations, particularly the reforms to training such as an assessed first year of practice, which she said reflected the thoughts of people across the sector.

“There’s an air of excitement and people are really pleased that finally these things are being debated and a plan of action is taking shape,” said Tompsett, chair of the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee.

While admitting that universities and employers may struggle to implement all the recommendations in the current financial climate, Tompsett urged practitioners and students to join debates and influence the reform programme.

“We’ve got to seize the moment to safeguard the future of the profession.”

The registered social worker agreed that some practitioners “don’t feel in control of their destiny” and are afraid to speak their minds due to the highly regulated environment of local government.

But she added: “Social workers and students should feel completely free to approach anyone on the reform board and make their feelings known. If people don’t say things then they quibble afterwards.”

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