Social workers will need to complete a comprehensive physical fitness test to be able to practice, the government has said.
Announced today, the move could see social workers having to climb walls, hurtle across revolving logs and crawl through barbed wire as part of a qualifying method “similar to, but more intense than, ITV’s TV show Ninja Warrior”.
The minister for the Department for Making Public Servants Jump Through Hoops, Peter Ian Staker, said the move would “finally provide a real test of a social worker’s fitness to practice”.
The Association of British Social Workers expressed surprise that, after all the years of the term’s use, it only just realised “fitness to practice” was meant literally.
“We thought it was more about a social worker’s ability to use theory and conduct assessments, rather than complete an obstacle course in less than two minutes,” a spokesperson said.
Resilience and stamina
It is unclear whether social workers who fail the 784 metre course, which will include three 20-foot plummets into water, will be able to retake the test.
Staker said: “We’ve always had social workers who are competent at using theory and working with people, but what we are concerned about is that there seems to be a remarkable lack of social workers able to climb 40 metres up a slippery pole with a weight strapped to their legs. It is this kind of resilience and stamina we expect from frontline social workers, and it isn’t what we are seeing.”
Business leaders from the adventure playground sector have said that the announcement has resulted in a “huge boost” in the numbers of local authorities purchasing playground climbing apparatus for council offices. One children’s services director told Community Care that having a great outdoor playground will now be seen as key to a council’s continuing professional development offer.
April Loof, the spokesperson for The Association of British Social Workers, said: “I think our members will be furious about this. ‘Fitness to practice’ is meant literally? That’s outrageous. Where will social workers get the time to maintain fitness with huge caseloads? Where will they get the energy to practice handstands on a wall ledge after working 16 hour days?”
Staker said the move was about ensuring public trust in the profession. He said: “People should know that – not only should their social worker WANT to run through barbed wire for them – their social worker should be able to, and have an approved status showing it.”
The government is yet to decide on whether they will grant television rights to the tests. Staker said there was a public interest in seeing social workers complete the tests, and there was a convenient slot available just before X Factor.