BASW poised to form rival social work college

The British Association of Social Workers is likely to announce fresh plans this month to form a rival to the College of Social Work, Community Care understands.

Talks between BASW and the College over a possible merger between the two organisations are believed to have broken down, partly over BASW’s concerns about a joint membership deal between the College and trade union Unison announced last month.

Senior sources in the social care sector have revealed that BASW is planning to re-brand as “BASW: the college of social work” and launch a campaign to promote itself as an alternative to the similarly-named College of Social Work under development as part of the social work reform programme in England.

The plans have been outlined in a letter to senior BASW members and a public announcement is expected on 24 January, according to the sources. The letter is also understood to reveal the association’s intention to withdraw from further engagement with the interim board of the College.

Community Care understands this move was decided at a BASW council meeting on 7 January.

In January’s edition of Professional Social Work, BASW’s in-house magazine, the association’s chief executive Hilton Dawson revealed concerns about the College’s agreement “in principle” to sub-contract Unison to deliver its trade union functions.

Under the deal, Unison will provide employee representation services to college members and the college will provide professional advice services to social workers who are Unison members.

Dawson claimed that the partnership deal with Unison was equivalent to using “public funds to enable the trade union to compete with and potentially undermine an independent professional association”.

He added that BASW had taken legal advice, which “calls the College agreement with Unison into question”.

In its final report in December 2009, the Social Work Task Force recommended the establishment of an independent college of social work in England to “articulate and promote the interests of good social work”.

Last month, the College of Social Work announced it would be charging social workers £270 for annual membership, although Unison members would only have to pay £50 extra per year to join.

The interim co-chairs of the College of Social Work, Maurice Bates and Corinne May-Chahal, and Allan Bowman, Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said in a statement they were “very surprised” to learn of BASW’s plans to withdrawn from convergence negotiations and move forward to form a breakaway college.

In a joint statement, they said: “SCIE officers contacted BASW’s chief executive, Hilton Dawson, asking for clarification and reassurance that this is not the case, requesting a response as a matter of urgency. We are still awaiting a full response.
“SCIE and the Interim Board of The College remain committed to convergence with BASW as we believe convergence is in the best interests of the profession.”

When contacted by Community Care, BASW declined to comment.

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