Merger between College of Social Work and BASW ruled out

College chair says board was advised that ‘merging with any organisation is simply not an option’

College Chair Jo Cleary said the board had been advised that 'merging with any other organisation is simply not an option'

The College of Social Work has ruled out the prospect of a merger with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) as an alternative to facing closure.

The College (TCSW) will close in September due to a lack of funds. Last week a snapshot survey carried out by a group of grassroots social workers indicated support for a merger with BASW as an alternative solution. The College’s board considered the survey findings but, having received legal advice on its options, concluded that closing the organisation was the only viable way forward.

In a statement issued to Community Care, Jo Cleary, chair of The College, said she had been heartened by the enthusiasm shown by social workers “for continuing the legacy and mission” of TCSW but ruled out the prospect of any merger.

“The board has been advised quite clearly that merging with any other organisation is simply not an option, because we are in planned wind-down,” she said.

“We would like to reassure people that we are working very hard to ensure that our resources and functions are transitioned in an appropriate and orderly way. As soon as we have information about this, and related issues around membership, we will be sharing full details with our members and stakeholders.”

BASW chair Guy Shennan said: “We have not had any formal contact from TCSW but we are committed to working in partnership to unite the profession. Our door remains open, and we are keen to talk.”

Future of TCSW functions?

The prospect of any merger is likely to have been influenced by The College’s financial position as any partner organisation would have taken on The College’s work and assets. The College faced a £240,000 annual deficit and a report drawn up by College leaders and government officials last month revealed that the organisation was tied into contracts for IT systems that are “not fit for purpose” and are costly to maintain.

The College’s three month wind down process, secured thanks to an injection of extra government funding that staved off the threat of immediate closure, is designed to ensure an orderly transition of its resources and functions. These include the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF), endorsement schemes for the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment and the Principal Social Worker networks.

While today’s announcement rules out the prospect of a formal merger with BASW or any other body, it does not preclude BASW and other organisations from taking on some of The College’s functions. Attention will now turn to the future of key resources, notably the PCF.

In the meantime, the grassroots movement to find alternative ways forward for social work representation continues to generate interest. The grassroots-led survey on The College’s future has led to the formation of ‘The Social Workers’ Assembly’, described as “a space for the 80,000 social workers from across the country to discuss what’s next for social work”.

Elected members from within The College of Social Work’s faculties and professional assembly have already thrown their weight behind the fledgling group, stating their aim of “co-creating an entity that can rise out of the ashes of the current college”.

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