Progress of social work reforms ‘slower than hoped’

In its final major report, the Social Work Reform Board admits progress has been slower than hoped, but calls on the sector to continue to work together.

Public spending curbs have hampered the implementation of social work reforms, the last major report by the Social Work Reform Board has concluded.

Building a Safe and Confident Future: Maintaining Momentum says that, while many of the Social Work Task Force’s recommendations are in place two years’ on, progress could have been quicker.

“The rate of progress on the ground is slower than all of us would have hoped,” said Moira Gibb, chair of the board, in her introduction to the report.

“The significant reduction of resources is inevitably having a profound impact at national and local level and it is, consequently, more difficult to spread messages about success and examples of good practice in these harsher times.”

The report notes the “difficult start” faced by the College of Social Work, which still faces the challenge of persuading large numbers of social workers to join as paying members.

It adds that the social work profession “must continue to work together to give the profession the single, coherent and loud voice it needs to have to ensure it delivers what the task force envisaged and what the profession needs”.

Progress made in introducing the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) programme is highlighted in the report. The programme will assess the knowledge and capability of newly qualified social workers at the end of their first year and those who pass will get a certificate from the College of Social Work.

The ASYE will not follow the “license to practise” model envisaged by the taskforce and will instead rely on employers enrolling staff in the programme. However, the reform board hopes it “may remain a longer term aspiration for the profession”.

The board also says that early feedback from frontline managers in social work about the training package it helped develop for them is positive.

Publication of the report marks the end of what the board calls the development stage of social work reform. Most of its work is now in the hands of other organisations, such as the College and central government.

Maurice Bates interim co-chair of the College, said:  “This report recognises that social work employers have ‘embraced the reform agenda’ but emphasises the need for further uptake and engagement with the College in order to keep the momentum going. 

“At the moment we are busy converting thousands of social workers who have registered with the College into fee-paying members – but we need more to sign up in the coming months to be able to champion the profession and further support practitioners in their day-to-day jobs in the way that we plan to.”

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