Frontline practitioners support Narey plan to split social work degree, Community Care poll shows

A round up of the intitial reaction to Martin Narey's review of children's social work education in England

The majority of social workers and students broadly agree with Martin Narey’s recommendations for reforming the training of children’s practitioners in England, a snap poll by Community Care would suggest.

Community Care’s poll was filled in by 134 qualified social workers, 71 students and 27 academics; 31 respondents gave a different job role or declined to say. The results show support even for Narey’s most potentially controversial recommendations, such as allowing undergraduate students to specialise in children’s social work after their first year.

Almost a week after Narey published his 18 recommendations for improving initial social work training – and education secretary Michael Gove revealed the chief social worker for children and families is looking into developing a licence to practise arrangement – reaction continues to pour in.

Many have focused on the recommendation to allow earlier specialisation within the degree, as well as to transfer regulation of social workers from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to The College of Social Work (TCSW).

Early on in the debate, TCSW said it was “equal to the challenge” set by Narey to take on the HCPC’s social work duties, but the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) questioned how a body with no proven track record of regulating could take on such an important role. BASW chief executive Bridget Robb pointed out that the HCPC’s duty to protect the public is at odds with TCSW’s membership model.

The HCPC defended its approach to regulation, stating: “We are confident that our standards and processes are fit for purpose and complement existing mechanisms for the delivery of health and social care education. We have worked closely with the social work community to develop these.” It will consider Narey’s recommendations in more detail at its next council meeting in March.

BASW also expressed concern about the consequences of splitting social work into a distinct checklist of skills needed for adults and children’s social work.

University of Hertfordshire lecturer Tanya Moore went further. Writing in Community Care (in a personal capacity), she said of Narey’s recommendation that undergraduate students should be allowed to specialise after their first year: “This would be two years too soon. Asking students to make a decision about their future careers so early into their training disadvantages students, the services and, ultimately, the people we support.”

The response from the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUC SWEC) and Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW) was welcoming, in contrast to the reaction of some individual academics. The two bodies said they were “cautious about making too quick a response” before David Croisdale-Appleby’s review of social work education in adult services was published.

But they did argue that, instead of introducing a new specialist children’s social work degree, the profession should build upon the existing arrangements, as some courses already allow students to specialise through their placement and dissertation choices.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services supported Narey’s review and acknowledged that employers needed to do more to shape social work education and work with universities and TCSW to ensure sufficient high-quality practice placements are available. Behind the scenes, some academics told Community Care they felt the review put too much emphasis on the shortcomings of some degree courses, without paying enough attention to the role of employers.

Meanwhile, practice educator Helen Bonnick notes that some commentators have mistakenly understood Narey to be arguing in favour of less theory on the degree. “By my reading, this is not what Narey says. [He] has chosen to give space to two particular points: that there is not enough focus on theories and understanding of child development and on child protection issues; and that there is sometimes too much focus on anti-oppressive practice and empowerment.

“Certainly there are students I have worked with who have needed more, not less, teaching on anti-oppressive practice. In my opinion, there is room for more teaching in almost every area of the curriculum.”

On Twitter, some criticism was levelled at Narey for the methodology used in the report, which Narey makes clear is not a formal review, but one based on conversations with people in the sector.


Narey has this to say of his chosen methodology in the foreword to his report: “I have had a large number of private interviews with employers, academics, students and newly employed, established and retired social workers. That approach encouraged many individuals to be rather more candid than they might otherwise have been. That has been vital.”

Finally, former director Bill McKitterick, who has a long history of working to improve training and development of social workers, says that, while there is much good in Narey’s review, there is no escaping the fact it is yet another report produced by a non-social worker.

“For once money is not the issue; what is needed is to use the expertise and experience within the whole profession. Then perhaps the next major review of an aspect of social work can be initiated and undertaken from our own leadership, rather than from a politician or government or following a national scandal.”


More from Community Care

9 Responses to Frontline practitioners support Narey plan to split social work degree, Community Care poll shows

  1. tjha1 February 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    This split could prove damaging to students future career prospects.what needs to change in social work education isn’t being able to specialise in one particular area after the first year, but for students to have their placements in statutory settings in adults and children’s services as this will give them a better idea of what area they would like to work in once qualified.

    Decent placements are of vital importance as well as excellent practice educators who can lead the student through the areas of learning

  2. Liz February 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Just another load of meddling to a system which isn’t meeting needs as it is. So Narey wants children ready social workers after three years? How’s this going to help? What would make more sense is having an overhaul of the admissions system at universities where vocational qualifications matter more than a levels, and so do references from an employment in a health and social care capacity. Only then will those in government be satisfied that they’re training the right people for a role in social work rather than waiting until they’ve graduated before we know if they’re any good.

  3. Brian February 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Just another example of a Tory stooge making the case for privatising public services such as the new fast track Frontline’s hand picked Russell Group graduates with little or no related experience of social care and propelling them into the profession in 18 months. Presumably this arrangement is ok for Narey, as Frontline is purportedly able to ‘buy’ placements from several boroughs by paying them a premium and prove his point reducing the number and quality of those available to Universities.
    No wonder he also supports a greater role for TCSW. Its a Government supported body which is having to commandeer members through LA block affiliation because frontline social workers simply neither trust nor respect it.

  4. Mel February 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    It is fine for politicians who have no idea of the work content besides the bad publicity by the media,to introduce senseless reforms at a time when focus should be on bettering the services that enable individuals to improve on quality of life,instead they do the opposite-cut services and blame individuals and those supposed to be enabling them-by splitting the degree!!Genius!

  5. Dave Ensor February 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    As a newly qualified SW who came via the 4yr, part time Employment Based route (self-funded), I agree that we need to build the profession as to be taken seriously. However, as I have 23 years ex working with children & families and 13 as a qualified Youth Worker, I was not in a position to decide whether I would work with children, young people/adolescents, or adults, in the first two years of studying. Nor even at this point, as I began my study working with adults, then was seconded to young people immediately after my last placement.
    Everyone has an opinion, but it seems we are trying to use everyone’s ideas. Yes we need good qualifications, but also life experience. Perhaps entry age should be 25 (like the DiPSw), but with 4 A’s at A level? (counts me out), to be paid what?
    87,000Social Workers are registered, nearly half work outside Local Authority – but everything seems geared to Statutory Children & Families.
    Whatever happens, keep the politicians out of meddling otherwise we will be here in another 5 years.

  6. Pet February 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    As a student, I don’t think specialising on the onset is particularly good because there are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions to practice which one can only make up their mind after practical experience as to where they think they fit in, even though one may have had what was thought to be “a clear idea” of which group they thought they liked/preferred to work with.

  7. Paul Adam February 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Yet again the need to reinvent the wheel having been a Social Worker for 0ver 40+ years has nobody learnt the lesson of nursing who split training from general – Learning disability and psychiatric – try moving between the various sectors – There is much to learn from dealing with all aspects of social work – ignore at your peril. I would however be happy for the college to take on the role of regulator of Social Work but can someone have a word with the tax man to allow the contributions for membership against tax as they do not recognise it!

  8. carol February 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    I’m alarmed at the idea of specialising too early – when working with children adults are involved! There needs to be a solid understanding of adult substance use issues, mental health issues, disability, domestic violence, homelessness, benefits and welfare reforms – all of these things affect families. In the same way adult social work needs to be involved with children’s – there is too much division

  9. Bucky February 20, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    I would disagree with specialising early, isn’t a 3-year degree supposed to introduce you to what social work is actually like, and then allow you to choose?
    Not sure why this is being said by a politician – I would much rather trust the judgement of actual social workers, rather than a man who has no experience. This is worrying for those (including me) who are considering a degree, or have a degree in social work. I plan to get my qualification through the fast track route, but these possible changes throw a spanner in the works for a lot of people. Are they really needed?