The national college of social work has been tasked with improving the reputation of the profession as a top priority.
The national college development group named this as one of five key tasks in the first three years of operation, and will involve promoting “a narrative about social work” to policy-makers and the media.
The decision follows a long-running campaign by Community Care, Stand Up Now for Social Work, which aimed to improve the public image of the profession through more balanced and accurate media coverage.
A consultation on the purpose and functions of the college will be launched in May, but the group set out the other priorities in a consultation paper,published today. They are: to establish the college as a legal entity; define the values and purpose of social work; develop standards; and establish different types of membership.
The paper also sets out the five key functions of the national college: providing a strong voice for, and leadership to, the profession; defining the values and purpose of social work; developing, upholding and supporting standards; providing guidance and support to the profession; and shaping training and development.
A permanent chair, board and director will be appointed within three years, according to the consultation paper, and a business model developed to ensure the college is viable and sustainable.
A development group, comprising employers, unions, academics and social workers, which is being facilitated by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, is meeting monthly to discuss priorities in forming the college. This group will engage in further dialogue with the devolved administrations and social work bodies in the rest of the UK to enable the college, which is being developed in England only, to operate UK-wide.
It will also consult on and define future membership categories. These are likely to include students, those “licensed to practice” under the proposed new system being developed by the reform board, those qualified but not in practice, and an associate, non-voting membership for anyone else interested in the profession.
The consultation, to be completed by October, will be open to social workers, service users and employers.
More specific roles for the college set out in the consultation paper include:
• Representing the profession in discussions with policy-makers in government.
• Building relationships with the academic community and bodies representing other professions.
• Establishing links with similar organisations overseas.
• Providing national guidance on good practice.
• Establishing and promoting standards for employers of social workers.
• Agreeing and promoting standards for the quality of training.
• Approving and promoting the provision of continuing professional development.