By Ray Jones, Professor of social work at Kingston University and St George’s University of London
The demise of the College of Social Work is another dark day for social work.
The College’s closure was announced at the same time the government confirmed its intention to move ahead with a consultation on plans to imprison social workers.
Also on the same day the NSPCC noted social workers are being bombarded with record levels of work and the Ofsted chief inspector gave social workers another good kicking. All of which has made me wonder exactly how dark will be the darkest days ahead.
There have always been concerns about The College of Social Work. Arguments were made when it was set up that its business plan was too ambitious, costly and unsustainable.
It became more and more dependent on government (and employer) funding. Its governance leadership was not opened up to an election, something particularly strange for a membership organisation. It struggled to present itself as strongly independent of its government funders or to capture the imagination of most social workers. The latter two points may not be unrelated.
But then the government, and especially it seems the Department for Education, turned away from the College. It has preferred to give funding to private companies, such as Morning Lane Associates, a small but presumably expanding company originally set up, in part, by the chief social worker for children.
Graveyard of social care institutions
Should the passing of College be mourned? Yes it should. It now will lie in the graveyard of other social work and social care organisations such as the General Social Care Council and the Commission for Social Care Inspection whose responsibilities were transferred by the government to organisation such as the Health and Care Professions Council and Ofsted – dominated by health and education.
So another organisation with the potential to be a champion for social and social workers has been killed off by the government. What to do now?
Three big messages. Social work and social workers are being made more vulnerable as a consequence of government decisions and actions.
Secondly, the private sector is increasingly favoured by the government rather than non-profit organisations led by social workers.
Social workers need to be heard
This is increasingly obvious, for example, in the radical re-shaping which is underway within social work education, with the changes decided by those close to government but with no or little background in social work.
Thirdly, social workers need to make their collective voice stronger to speak for social work and, especially, for and alongside those who are already in difficulty and whose lives are being made even more awful by government policies.
With the demise of the College it is now clear that it is the British Association of Social Workers (BASW’s) which has to be made stronger as the voice of social work.
Social workers and all social workers should see it as a part of their professional responsibility to make BASW’s voice strong and loud.