The children’s principal social worker network is to vote on whether it should attempt to become financially independent of government.
An email sent yesterday by the chair of the network asked members to vote “yes” or “no” on the following statements:
“I believe we can develop a strong voice through our network whilst being funded for administrative support by the Department for Education.
“I believe we should develop a strong voice through our network from a local authority-funded and -agreed private contract with an external provider.”
The hosting of the principal social worker (PSW) network is currently out to tender as part of a £192k package of government-funded College of Social Work legacy functions.
But children’s PSW network chair, Mandy Nightingale, said there had been talk of an “independent” network of principal social workers which did not rely on government funding.
The email said it had been suggested by some members the network should consider an alternative approach to its future functioning. This could include a financial contribution from each local authority and a procurement process between the network and any potential provider.
Nightingale said she was approached by a few individuals asking her to seek members’ opinions in order to obtain a view from the whole network before taking further action.
She said: “We are a democratic network of strong, independent principal social workers and it’s not for the chair but for the network to make a decision.”
The vote has gone out to the children’s network only, but Nightingale said she was in close communication with the adults’ network chair and would share any outcomes.
Nightingale added she saw the funding from the DfE as a reflection the government supports the network’s existence as a voice for the profession.
However, she said if the network comes forward and says as a majority it would like to move away from that funding, she would meet with members to discuss next steps.
“I do see us having an independent voice [already]. At the present time I’m happy to move the network forward as much I can while I’m chair with the financial and administrative support from the DfE.”
But former joint chair, Tony Stanley, said the network should not continue to accept funding until it was made more accountable and provided evidence around what it had achieved.
“I think the debate around who should support us is missing the point. What are we doing, achieving, contributing? We can’t make an argument about where we should be located because we can’t make an argument about what we’re doing,” he said.
“We can’t have a network [accepting money] that doesn’t do anything or show any outcomes.”