ADCS president defends ‘crap students’ comment after apologising for his language

Alan Wood defended the sentiment that social work has a problem with quality while addressing the 2014 ADCS conference

Hackney DCS Alan Wood
Hackney DCS Alan Wood is the current ADCS president

Hackney children’s director Alan Wood has revealed he stands by the controversial comments he made about social work education, despite apologising for the language he used.

In a speech at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Conference in Manchester, Wood expressed his regret for the comments, which were seen as undermining the quality of current social workers, explaining that his passion had landed him in hot water.

However, the outspoken ADCS president went on to say: “We don’t have a problem with a lack of social workers, we have a problem with a lack of quality social workers.”

In an interview with Community Care, Wood explained that it was the language and not the sentiment that he was sorry for.

“It’s not just me saying there is a problem with the quality of the students – there is a problem with the quality of the students through evidence of the data,” Wood said.

“In my speech I didn’t apologise for saying that, I apologised for using a word that put a fog around the issue,” he said. “There are some schools of social work which are not good enough, and you can tell that by looking at their outcomes.”

The Hackney boss, who pioneered the much-praised Hackney model of social work, is an advocate of schemes like Frontline, which aims to incentivise the best graduates to go into the profession.

“We should be unashamedly going after the best graduates,” he said. “We need to ensure we get the best graduates with the skills and aptitude to be social workers.”

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7 Responses to ADCS president defends ‘crap students’ comment after apologising for his language

  1. Rowena Wood July 14, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Oh well sometimes being a leader does mean putting voice to the truth. Why should he care take any ones feelings when there is so much at steak here. Good on him for speaking his truth, change wont happen if no one speaks the truth.

    From a very committed and passionate social worker.

    • G Hall July 14, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Does Mr Hall consider he was a good social worker I wonder? It is not clear what he wants from social workers. The biggest issue for most social workers is work load. I am not sure how being the brightest graduate helps with that exactly. It would be nice if recent graduates were able to spell and construct coherent reports considering what is “at steak” (sic).

  2. Edna July 14, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    It is unusual to see a critical assessment of social work education/ skills from those at the top of the hierarchy in the system, perhaps because the education of those who climb their way up lacks much also- who is going to admit they were not ‘up to it’. Peter’s Principle is not dead.

    The government and those responsiblle for the social services system need to get a grip. The very ranks of management may also mirror the problem Mr Woods raises for social workers i.e. poorly skilled and educated people who manage, by moving around strategically, to make it to positions of power,
    No wonder there is resistance to criticism or serious change from all these educators, and social work organisations.

  3. Horatio Tremoine July 14, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    well if that’s the standard of English usage and grammar, he’s probably about right

  4. Jim Greer July 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    There already exists a process for the ‘best graduates’ to get into social work without a need for the Frontline model. At my University Teesside and at other Universities we have an MA Social Work. It does attract very well qualified graduates. They have the opportunity to study a programme of just under two years which does not just train them for the job as it exists but provides them will skills to adapt to future changes in how social work is delivered. The definition if best graduates should include those who have shined and developed and not just those from certain Universities. If we were to recruit only from Russell group Universities as Frontline seems to then we are picking people on the basis of the school attainment rather than what they have achieved when they got to University.
    We need a flexible workforce who can adapt to change. In the 25 years since I achieved my MSc in Social work the profession and the social work role have changed beyond all recognition and I have changed jobs and sectors a number of times. Fortunately I did a programme which gave me skills for my lifetime career not just the job as it was then. This what the best Social Work programmes today do for their graduates.

  5. Jane L July 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    I find it frustrating that unqualified workers never get a mention as to the good work that is done by them.
    Ive been working as a care manager for 18 years due to my nursing qualification but recently been demoted to CCW (community care worker at a loss of £10.000 per annum) as the council state we have “withered on the vine” because we haven’t got the SW degree. Prior to this we were doing exactly the same case loads as the SW.
    Life experience, empathy and ongoing training can also ensure that you are equiped to do the job well.
    I am aware of qualified workers that have worked their way up to senior management with the CCSw qualification and others that have been on capability and can’ write a proper sentence.
    The law and legislation are improtant but I took my NVQ 4 by choice to ensure that I had some background knowledge.
    The role and expectations are changing all the time, this has to be learnt whilst also working, being taught at a university doesn’t prepare you for the actual hands on stress and strain fo the job with limited staff and resources and now due to reduced finances many new workers are newly qualified and have to be assisted by unqualified and other harrassed / stressed workers.

  6. Lilybright July 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    I pity Hackney Social Workers, who have so clearly been told by their boss that he thinks they are ‘crap’.
    It’s not ‘crap students’ and ‘crap workers’ who are the problem, but crap bosses who defend and implement the crap free market social policy and consequent financial decisions of successive crap, venal, corrupt and – now we know for sure – abusive governments. Good, preventive and supportive social work has been poisoned on the vine, while social workers are abused and families blamed by the very people who stand to benefit from the ‘reforms’.
    Is it too much to hope that Hackney social workers will take heart from the recent public sector strikes and the clear public support for public sector services and workers, and will respond by walking out until he apologises?