Friday, 15 January 2016

What kind of new body is the government proposing for social work?

Children and Young People Now reports that the UK government is set to create a new organisation that they say will try to give social workers similar professional status to doctors and lawyers. The organisation will, it is said, be tasked with driving-up standards in children’s and adults’ social work practice, education and training.

My first reaction is that all this sounds rather familiar – a College of Social Work Mk 2 perhaps? If so why did the Government let the Mk1 College go down the pan? I dare say we can ponder that puzzle ad infinitum and be no wiser. There are wheels within wheels, as they say.

My second reaction is that this proposed new body will never confer on social work similar professional status to medicine and law unless it is owned and governed by members of the social work profession. The medical royal colleges and the equivalent legal professional bodies – the Bar Council and the Law Society – are run and controlled, respectively, by doctors and lawyers. From the scant amount of information currently available, the new social work body looks like it will be some sort offshoot of government, combining the functions of a regulator in addition to professional development. The nightmare scenario is that it will be run by civil servants and government advisers and regularly interfered with by politicians – a dire prospect.

I only hope I am wrong, because if the government is creating the kind of malign behemoth I fear, that will effectively block the achievement of full professional status for social workers for the foreseeable future.