Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Future of Social Work Education

I am pleased to see that Martin Narey is trying to gather as much information as he can about the future of social work education. Sadly I will not be able to join his web-chat next Monday (3rd June) but I hope other people will and that they will tell him what they think. 

You can find details (or a place to leave a comment) at:|SCSC|SC019-20130530-GLOB|top

I left a comment which I hope they publish. I said that I think that a first qualification in social work should be generic and that too early specilisation - into mental health, elderly or children's social work -  is a BAD idea. 

I believe that the initial generic qualification should be followed by postgraduate/post qualification training in specialist areas. That works well in medicine and should work well in social work. It should create well-rounded professionals who can think outside their own specialisms and learn from practice undertaken with other service-user groups. 

BUT it all needs to be well-funded and well-designed. At present post-qualification training is a mess. There need to be proper routes to proper post-grad qualifications with proper education and proper assessments. The model of membership/fellowship of the various medical royal colleges may provide a way forward.

I was struck by Martin Narey’s reflections on the bright social work students he had met in Sheffield and elsewhere. I wonder how many will still be in practice five years after qualification? 

It seems to me the problem is not so much the education fitting the job, as the job fitting the education. There is no point educating people to be critical and reflective, and no point developing their understanding of social problems and human psychology or deepening their knowledge of theory, if they are going to be thrown into mind-numbingly stressful jobs in which they are required to endlessly fire-fight and form-fill or to slavishly follow rule-books devised by bureaucrats, politicians and civil servants.

And that brings me to the point I most want to labour. The answer to shortfalls in children's social work is NOT primarily due to problems in recruitment and deficits in training. It is due to problems with RETENTION, which need to be addressed in very different ways, not least by looking at working conditions and job design in a critical, creative and intelligent way.