Unison warns reform board over professional development

The Social Work Reform Board’s proposal to simplify and improve continuing professional development “will not stick” unless social workers are allowed protected time for training, Unison has warned.

The board has been working towards developing a simple framework for CPD based on the national standards for social workers in England.

In its progress report, Building a Safe and Confident Future: One Year On, published yesterday, the board outlined four principles that will underpin the CPD framework. But these did not include a set amount of protected time for training and learning.

Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work and chair of the reform board’s career development working group, said the union would be pushing for more clarity on protected time.

“The Social Work Task Force said there should be an entitlement to CPD; that’s the key word,” she said. “That’s the only way to make this stick.

“We’re going to pursue that and try and get a number attached to it, as stipulated in the Social Work Contract produced by Unison and Community Care, otherwise the framework is just a bit of paper.”

The contract called for 10% of protected time for professional development, after the Social Work Task Force found in its 2009 report that there was inconsistency in the amount of time and support allocated to social workers’ training needs.

The reform board hopes the CPD framework, which is due out next year, will provide national consistency while retaining the flexibility of local arrangements.

Read our special report on what the Social Work Reform Board proposals means for the profession’s future. Includes podcast with reform board chair Moira Gibb.

The four principles underpinning the framework will be:

1. Social workers should be supported to maintain the minimum standards for re-registration set out by the regulator.

2. Social workers should be encouraged to learn through a wide range of flexible learning opportunities, including in-house and locally provided courses as well as post-qualifying awards. These should be designed and delivered through partnership arrangements between groups of organisations and higher education institutions.

3. CPD should be a continuous process, planned in annual cycles.

4. CPD should be accessible and cost effective.

Further work is needed to transform these principles into a framework, the report said, and they may have to be adapted to reflect the findings of Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection and the Family Justice Review in 2011.

It added: “The College of Social Work will work with the profession, employers and educators to confirm the Professional Capabilities Framework outcomes and thresholds that will determine the content of CPD and may wish to take the CPD framework forward.”

The reform board’s proposals remain “a work in progress”, to be developed during a consultation period. Anyone interested in commenting on the proposals should email the reform board, ask their representative organisations to submit them on their behalf, or visit the reform board’s website for more details.

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