You only need to skim Community Care’s account of a presentation on the vexed subject of accreditation for children’s social workers by the Department for Education’s Deputy Director of Social Work Reform, Sam Olsen, to appreciate the extent to which policy makers seem to have completely lost the plot.
Hardest to swallow in the report of Olsen’s speech is the claim that introducing the accreditation test would result in children’s social workers receiving better supervision. She speaks as if nobody in the profession had hitherto realised the importance of supervision and that all they need to introduce it is a kick from behind.
The phrase ‘utter nonsense’ springs to mind. Anybody who has actually practiced social work with children knows the value of high quality supervision. But the problem is how to deliver it in organisations which are under huge resource pressures and plagued by instabilities due to staff shortages and high turnover. If you have a high caseload, you have a lot of cases to discuss with your supervisor. That requires more time which you don’t have because you are so busy managing too many cases.
I have to say that I am getting more and more fed up with people who are not professional social workers, pontificating on things of which they appear to have only a slender grasp. Excruciatingly, Olsen is reported as arguing that her Department’s truly awful accreditation scheme will be “empowering” for social workers and constitutes an important step towards professionalising children’s social work.
An important step towards professionalising children’s social work would be to support the profession in further professionalising itself, instead of trying to impose half-baked schemes devised by management consultants and policy wonks. You don’t need much insight to realise that a silly check-box test, which represents an arbitrary hurdle for social workers to clear in order to keep doing their jobs, is most likely to result in more social workers deciding that the profession is not for them. That will result in even more vacancies and higher turnover and less and less time for supervision.