Education secretary Michael Gove was forced to restate his commitment to social work after the head of the British Association of Social Workers accused him of marginalising the profession.
Gove told the National Children and Adult Services Conference that he was “passionately committed to supporting social workers” despite barely mentioning the profession during a 25-minute speech, which largely focused on schools.
At the end of the speech, Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW and a former Labour MP, complained that the Conservative minister had not made social work a priority within the renamed Department for Education.
“It was good to hear your news about education,” Dawson told Gove at the event in Manchester, “but you have made very plain in your speech and since coming into office that you do not see social work as a central priority for the work of the Department for Education.
“Why do we not have a social work minister, a chief social worker, and a transparent system to ensure that the funding of social work and social care is made clear to people who pay for those services and use those services?”
The education secretary responded by praising the work of children’s minister Tim Loughton, the Department for Education minister with responsibility for social work reform.
This prompted another interjection from Dawson, who called out from the floor that Loughton was “doing a great job but he’s not responsible for social work in adult services”.
Gove explained that ministerial responsibilities were split between the remits of directors in English councils, which have separate children and adult services directorates.
He said that the review of child protection and social work practice by Eileen Munro would “reshape the future of social work”. The full publication of serious case reviews would help to clarify the role of social workers in child protection cases.
Gove added: “I’m passionately committed to supporting social workers, and as for the creation of a chief social worker, I think the guy in charge of the British Association of Social Workers is doing a great job in speaking up for social workers – no need for duplication there.”
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