Engaging social workers will be a major short-term challenge for the College of Social Work, according to its newly-appointed joint interim chairs.
In an interview with Community Care, Maurice Bates and Corinne May-Chahal, who will take up post as co-chairs on 1 August, set out their priorities for the college.
“We need to inform social workers about the college, involve them and create a college that is run by the profession,” said Bates.
This will be achieved partly through the national consultation, which is open until 10 September.
“We need to analyse that feedback and talk to people in the field,” May-Chahal said.
So far, 100 people have attended regional consultation events and a further 500 have responded to the online consultation questionnaire, which is open to social workers, employers, students, service users and other stakeholders in the UK.
It is hoped many more of the UK’s 100,000 social workers will take part in the coming months.
“It’s a difficult time,” said May-Chahal. “We know social workers are overstretched and feeling under threat.
“Talking about a college could seem esoteric at the moment, but it’s the very thing that could save the profession.”
Both Bates and May-Chahal said the college would look at improving media and public understanding of social work.
“We need to build up as much influence as we can with partner organisations, the media and, indirectly, the public,” said Bates.
On their joint appointment, Bates said their different professional backgrounds – May-Chahal’s social work education and Bates’s in local government – would enable them to reach different parts of the sector.
“We’ve both had a lot of experience of sharing responsibility or power with other people,” he said. “So we should be able to come to common views pretty quickly.”
Establishing a national college was recommended by the Social Work Task Force to provide a stronger voice and leadership for the profession in England. Its other functions, which are subject to consultation, include developing and upholding standards, shaping training and development, and defining the values and purpose of social work.