Gove slams social work education

Education secretary claims social work training is currently dominated by dogma and theories of society.

Education secretary Michael Gove (picture credit: Rex Features)

Education secretary Michael Gove has pledged to strip out the “dogma” that dominates social work thinking in children’s services.

In a speech to the NSPCC this morning he slammed social work training which he said involved “idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society”.

He added: “They will be encouraged to see these individuals as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society.

“This analysis is, sadly, as widespread as it is pernicious. It robs individuals of the power of agency and breaks the link between an individual’s actions and the consequences. It risks explaining away substance abuse, domestic violence and personal irresponsibility, rather than doing away with them.

“Social workers overly influenced by this analysis not only rob families of a proper sense of responsibility, they also abdicate their own.”

He said great practice was too often undermined by such “dogma” and the government would work to “strip this sort of thinking out of the profession”.

He praised the “Reclaiming Social Work” model, pioneered in Hackney, and its high standards of social work which saw up to a third of staff being sacked when the model was put in place.

“I am determined to spread this rigour throughout the children’s social care profession,” Gove said.

He claimed the intellectual demands of many social work courses were not as high as they should be.

“Theories of society predominate over an effective understanding of child development, the cognitive damage that accrues through neglect and appropriate thresholds for taking children into care. And there isn’t enough stress on high quality practice.”

Gove said for him this was a personal mission because his own life had been transformed by social workers after he was adopted at four months old.

He said social work was a noble and demanding vocation which required a level of professionalism every bit as great as that of doctors or barristers, teachers or lecturers.

“I believe that we have not been either systematic, radical or determined enough in our efforts to reform the system of child protection in this country.”

He also claimed the Prime Minister David Cameron had been “brave” when he recently praised social workers in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference this year.

The Education secretary has asked Sir Martin Narey, formerly a director general of prisons and chief executive of Barnardo’s, to conduct a review of social work education which is expected to be published shortly.

He said the review would highlight there is currently a failure to be clear about what social workers needed to know and understand when they entered the profession.

“I am sure that if-as I hope and expect- social workers recognise the rigour and helpfulness of Sir Martin’s work the profession will only grow in public respect. A defensive or dismissive reaction will only, I fear, make it more difficult for all of us to achieve the change we need in child protection.”

, , ,

More from Community Care

5 Responses to Gove slams social work education

  1. Dee November 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    “Theories of society predominate over an effective understanding of child development, the cognitive damage that accrues through neglect and appropriate thresholds for taking children into care. And there isn’t enough stress on high quality practice.”

    Forgive me, (or not) but when did Gove do his social worker training in order to come to the conclusion he has… adopted at 4 months old makes you an expert now!?!

    Talk about wanting to favour public opinion and who best to use but the number one criticised profession..

    I am offended, angry and upset that you dare with no understanding at all make such ridiculous and offensive comments about social worker.

    Walk a week in a social work team, understand what you are talking about before you dare talk about it…

    1) when were you last screamed at an inch from your nose by a family?
    2) when were you last threated with you safety and your life ?
    3) when were you last spat at ?
    4) when were you last physically thrown out of someone’s home
    5) when were you last chased with a knife
    6) when were you last verbally abused in such a vile way

    DO you get the picture Gove ?

    You really think that “idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society”.

    No we are disempowered by people just like you, people like you cause us all of the risks to our person and to our lives because you continue to generate such hatred for the profession we do.. We have no idealistic theory however you however need to justify yours…

    Vile

    • Howard Ahanan November 13, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Well said Dee. It would appear that Mr. Gove was adopted by a family that nurtured and educated him in such a way that he was able to eventually be part of the Government, however it would appear that he wasn’t part of the ‘care system’ that we saw in the past, therefore his lack of empathy shows.

    • Geoff November 14, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Mr Gove fails to see the ‘bigger picture’ as usual. In addition, I wish he would stop mentioning the fact that he was adopted, as it was in 1967 and the world of adoption has changed dramatically since then and his experience have no relevance on contemporary child protection practice.

  2. Cod November 13, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    The real issue in Social Work education is how many former students have used the Social Work MA as a fully funded, light-touch route to piggy-back them straight into a life of academia without ever being employed in the field past their University-driven training. This leads to future practitioners being repeatedly taught by those with the qualification, but no actual practice experience other than a few placements. How can this prepare students properly? Lecturers/Academics are not open about their experience, and are cagey when challenged or questionned about how to apply theory to practice because they have never really done it above and beyond their practice learning?

  3. Howard Ahanan November 13, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I invite Mr. Gove to spend some time practising as a social worker. I empathise with Mr. Gove, as I myself spent a considerable amount of time in the care of the Local Authority, however as a newly qualified social worker I must say to him that I had a full picture of social work practice and as I move into employment am not phased by the practice. Families are indeed marginalised in society and substance use and domestic violence is and always will be a problem for many families, not just those being offered services. There are many and varied interventions available for social workers to use and a good social worker will look at several different ways in order to protect a service user from harm, such as benefit cuts/caps.
    I once again invite Mr. Gove to practice with a case load of 25 families for 1 year and following this make another speech.