The first detailed statement of the knowledge and skills specifically required for social work with older people has been launched by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).
The organisation has also launched a continuing professional development pathway for social workers to develop their skills for working with older people.
BASW’s capabilities statement explains what social workers know and can do, and the values that underpin how they work with older people, while the pathway sets out how social workers can learn and develop so they have those capabilities, aligns this learning to different roles and different stages of their career, and suggests possible learning and development opportunities.
The capabilities statement sets out enhanced capabilities for five different levels of a social work career, based on the levels in the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) for social workers in England. These are at:
- the end of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE)
- social worker to experienced social worker level
- advanced level
- strategic level
The capabilities are not mandatory and do not duplicate social work registration standards, the capabilities in the PCF or the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) for social workers in adult services, but instead provide “more specific and detailed capabilities that enhance social work with older people”.
BASW’s statement has been endorsed by the Department of Health. Jackie Doyle-Price, the junior care and mental health minister, said: “Social work with older people requires specific expertise, as during a lifetime, people experience complex situations, change and loss.
“Social workers can identify the strengths that older people can bring to maintain their independence and quality of life and ensure that their rights and wishes are upheld.”
Lyn Romeo, the chief social worker for adults, said: “While we have seen a move in recent years from specialist areas of adult social work to generic teams working with people of all ages, for social workers working with older people, there is a need for additional skills, knowledge, values and approaches which recognise the increasingly complex needs of the older population and which enable social workers to lead and challenge across an integrated health, care and housing system.
‘Diversity and inequalities’
“To do this will require increased awareness and understanding of the range of factors which characterise ageing and older age – including the impact of diversity and generational inequalities – alongside a willingness to develop and improve services, set practice standards and demonstrate leadership across social workers’ professional boundaries.”
A service user in an older people’s forum organised by BASW said: “It is important that it isn’t assumed that anyone can work with older people; older people deserve to have people with the right knowledge and skills working with them.”