The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has accused some local authorities of telling social workers they must join The College of Social Work (TCSW) as a condition of employment, which could contravene the law designed to prevent anti-competitive practices.
BASW made a series of freedom of information requests to councils last year, asking whether social workers were required to join TCSW.
A statement on BASW’s website this week said: “A number of respondents stated or implied that membership was a required condition of employment, that social workers were automatically opted in or that there was an expectation on them to join TCSW.
“This is a concern to BASW, which has taken legal advice and understands that any provision that requires social workers to join TCSW would amount to an unlawful restraint of trade and, as such, is actionable.”
BASW chief executive Bridget Robb has now written to all local authority chief executives, asking them to clarify whether membership of TCSW is mandatory, the opting out process and how membership fees are paid.
The letter also asks what consideration was given to alternative partnership arrangements.
Community Care has contacted the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services and Association of Directors of Children’s Services for a response.
TCSW said it was not aware of any employers making membership a condition of employment.
“We have always made it clear that membership of the college is not mandatory. We advise local authorities to give to staff the opportunity to opt out of membership should they wish to.
“Any college member, including those enrolled under our corporate membership scheme, can cancel their membership at any time by contacting us directly.”
TCSW chair Jo Cleary said: “After launching only two years ago our membership has now reached almost 13,000, which is a real testament to how much we have to offer to the profession.
“The college’s role is to work with employers to help them support their social workers in their practice and continuous professional development. We also co-operate with partner organisations such as BASW to develop new products and resources that support the profession as a whole, to drive further social work reform.”