Clash over Dawson’s role undermined BASW-College talks

Disagreements about whether Hilton Dawson should become the first chief executive of the College of Social Work played a key role in the breakdown of talks between BASW and the college's interim board.

Disagreements about whether Hilton Dawson should become the first chief executive of the College of Social Work played a key role in the breakdown of talks between BASW and the college’s interim board.

The clash is revealed in a collection of documents and letters published by the college in the wake of Tuesday’s Education Select Committee hearing.

The BASW chief executive put himself forward for the position in a 4 May letter that said a failure to appoint him if BASW and the college merged would breach employment law. He stated that as well as having the experience necessary, he was the only chief executive in the two organisations and so “my dismissal would constitute an automatically unfair dismissal” under TUPE rules.

But in a response sent to BASW chair Fran Fuller on 11 May, the college said it was “extremely important to have an open and transparent recruitment and selection process” for the role. A later letter, sent by college interim co-chair Maurice Bates on 14 June, added that Dawson’s wish to become chief executive represented a “conflict of interest” and asked for him to be excluded from talks.

But the following day, Fuller replied that Dawson had much to contribute to the talks and by being open both parties would be alert to his personal agenda. She also noted that Bates suggested excluding Dawson from the talks in December 2010 prior to any conflict of interest concerns.

The documents published by the college also include the risk assessment that resulted in the interim board’s decision to move ahead with getting the college up and running and then try to bring BASW in at a later date.

The assessment describes the talks with BASW as “fraught” and highlights several sticking points for the college in its talks with BASW including:

• It states that BASW had shown a lack of understanding about the principles of good governance with its insistence that Dawson becomes chief executive and by being “unwilling to adopt a board member selection process” when trying to establish a transition board of BASW and college members.

• BASW’s opposition to the college’s deal with Unison, which the assessment says is “crucial to securing an independently financed college”.

It concludes that the risk of continuing to work with BASW are that it may fail to establish the college due to continued disputes, Unison pulling out of the deal putting the viability of the college at risk and the risk of damaging the reputation of the college or the profession as a whole.

While not working with BASW would risk a split in the profession, the assessment said this would be a short-term problem if the college’s membership drive was successful although it added that this could damage relations with BASW further.

Also included in the documents released was the memorandum of understanding between the college and Unison, which the college refused to give to BASW after talks broke down in the summer.

The memorandum, which is not legally binding on either organisation, says Unison would supply employment advice to college members in England and that any agreement will clearly separate the boundaries between the college’s professional advice and the union’s employment advice.

It suggests a membership fee of £270 that would be spilt 50-50 between the union and the college, although part-time social workers will pay a different fee. The memorandum also prohibits Unison from using the money it gets from college members for its political fund and that dual membership schemes between Unison and other unions will be developed. The memorandum also states that the two organisations will include mechanisms in its agreement to ensure a minimum of 10,000 members are recruited by the college in its first year.

All the documents are available on the College of Social Work website.

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College of Social Work to launch without BASW

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