Helping social workers navigate their careers

Interim co-chair of the College of Social Work Maurice Bates, presents an update on the development of the new body

As interim co-chairs of the College of Social Work, Corinne May-Chahal and I are delighted to contribute to Community Care. This column gives us the valuable opportunity to engage with people at the heart of social work, to talk about key issues in the social work arena and to let you know how the college will work to resolve these issues and support you in the future.

We have now met the interim board twice. Not surprisingly, the main topic of discussion has been our major consultation exercise, which ran from May to October this year.

The top line findings from the consultation events with social work practitioners, students, lecturers and managers are now available on our website. The event feedback clearly shows strong support for the original purpose, functions and values set out by the development team at the start of the exercise.

We have also been working with a number of user-led organisations, consulting children and young people, parents, unaccompanied asylum seekers, young carers, youth offenders, people affected by mental health issues, adults with learning disabilities and people with drug and alcohol addiction problems. The team heard some insightful accounts of people’s experiences of social work services, both positive and negative.

This feedback has been invaluable and has shown the importance of co-creating the college with people who use social work services.

We are now considering how we continue to engage with people who use social work services and their carers as the college develops. We are now working closely with the interim board to develop a future strategy for the college, based on the feedback from the events and the online consultation.

Most people we met at the consultation events were in strong agreement that the college will need to adopt an independent voice when working with the public, policy makers and the media, actively promoting the real and lasting benefits that social work can bring to individuals and communities.

Improved communication was also a consistent theme; all participants expressed an urgent need for the role and functions of social work to be defined, so that service users are fully aware of what they can realistically expect from their social worker.

Most importantly, people likened their ideal social worker to a “human sat nav system”. A good social worker should be able to navigate a person through their troubles towards their ideal future, understanding the need for fast and responsive support in times of crisis.

It was proposed that the college should become a one-stop shop of expertise, acting as a beacon of excellence and leadership for the profession. Information and expertise from people who use social work services can contribute to enhanced learning, good practice and improved communication.

We look forward to updating you in January, after our third meeting with the interim board.

Maurice Bates is interim co-chair of the College of Social Work

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