College walks out of merger talks with BASW

Talks collapse over College's rejection of BASW's insistence that unified association offers employee representation to members.

The College of Social Work (TCSW) has walked out of merger talks with the British Association of Social Workers, BASW revealed today.

Talks have collapsed over the College’s rejection of the idea that any unified professional body offers advice and representation services to members in disputes with employers or regulatory conduct cases.

BASW was insistent that this function, provided by its arm’s-length trade union, the Social Workers Union, be part of any single College.

Today the association published an exchange of letters between the two organisations detailing the breakdown of talks.

In a letter to BASW chair Fran Fuller, College interim co-chairs Maurice Bates and Corinne May-Chahal said: “TCSW does not believe that representation of individuals or the SWU should be within a college in any shape or form, so that social workers can choose to belong to a trade union of their choice, or none.”

The letter goes on to say that the College wanted to be a centre of excellence for professional practice support and upholder of professional standards, and that BASW represented the interests of individual social workers to employers and the regulator. This was “an important role, but not the same as TCSW”, and created a “potential conflict of interest” with the College’s “primary role” as a champion of professional standards.

It added: “We feel we have reached a point in our discussions whereby we must acknowledge that we are very different organisations, with different organisational purposes and we have not, in these two years of negotiation, been able to find a way of combining these functions while uniting behind one shared vision for the College.”

In an angry response to the College, Fuller said: “The rigidity of your rhetoric and your insistence that the UK College would offer a diminished range of functions and member benefits was unacceptable to us.

“We still strongly believe that it is severely damaging to the profession of social work to have two competing organisations,” she added. “We believe it is unreasonable to expect individual social workers to pay for their licence to practice, a trade union for member services and two professional associations.”

“So long as your funding model includes recruiting individual members, then we remain in competition with you because social workers will not be able to afford to join you and us – and nor should we expect them to,” she added.

In a published statement on the breakdown of talks, the College said: “Unlike BASW/SWU we do not see ourselves as having any role in providing individual representation to employers or to the regulator. We think both functions are very necessary and important for social work but that individual representation is not the role of a College. BASW Executive and Council do not agree with this view.

“As we have different functions and work differently, TCSW remains committed to seeking to work collaboratively with BASW.”

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