Should social work students be registered with a national body?

A social work student and an academic debate the merits of student registration

A social work student and an academic debate whether students should be registered with a national body

YES, they should

Andrew Ellery, second year student at a university in southern England

Our registration plays a vital role in our day to day practice and academic work. Surely in a profession such as social work we need to ensure that everyone coming into it is made aware of how registration and regulation will affect us once qualified; the best way of achieving this is through student registration.

If a university felt a student was not fit to practise, without losing some form of registration, what prevents them applying elsewhere?

Just like qualified professionals, we need to be accountable for our work and answerable to a regulatory body. Removing the right of service users to complain about students who may be working with them to a regulatory body is disrespectful. If we are to build a profession to be proud of we need to ensure it is a profession that delivers a good service to the public.

In order to achieve this it’s important that conduct issues are embedded into our education. Should we fail to meet the expected standards we ought to face the reality of losing our registration.

The public consider social work to be a profession of secrecy and conspiracy so it is essential we have consistent rules for those involved with social work despite their status.

Even as students, our ­registration upholds standards; don’t deny vulnerable people the right to protection and reassurance that misconduct will be dealt with appropriately.

I pay £10 a year which enables me to evidence my commitment to the codes of practice within my education and I know that, when I am on placement, service users will feel more confident in my ability to practise.

NO, they shouldn’t

Professor Brigid Featherstone, director of social work, National University of Ireland

When I was learning to drive, a traumatic experience I have to say, it was vital that my car indicated my status to everyone else on the road and that someone authoritative was guiding me on my journey.

It is important that we recognise that students have a specific status. It is hoped that we continue to learn and grow throughout our professional careers, but it is as students that we can concentrate on learning and growing with the support of, and supervision provided, on placement and in the universities. We should protect the space provided to students and not tie it up with risk-averse procedures that are disrespectful of their journey.

The registration of students paints a misleading and potentially unfair picture of their status. It also betrays a lack of confidence in the abilities of universities and their employer partners to deal with difficulties that may arise.

Surely, those on the ground should be trusted to deal with any such difficulties. Where is the evidence to suggest that they should not? Social work courses are delivered by higher education institutions in partnership with employers that have quality assurance mechanisms in place, and approval can be withdrawn from courses that fail in their duties.

Have we not learned anything from the disastrous misjudgements of the past 10 years? Instead of providing social workers with the time, space and tools to engage with families, we placed our faith in abstract, disembodied, technological systems.

The desire to register students by a national body reflects a discredited and mistaken belief that, when ­difficulties arise, those involved cannot be trusted to deal with these.

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This article is published in the 23 September 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Should social work students be registered with a national body?”

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