As social workers’ practice becomes less about “what’s wrong here and how do we fix it?” and more about “what’s possible here and what is the best outcome?”
For those who are served by social workers it may be timely to take this approach to thinking about social work itself.
A couple of weeks ago, Sir Martin Narey published his independent review on the education of social work students and how well their education prepared them for working with children. Importantly, his review supports social work continuing as a single profession, along with a call for greater specialisation within the generic degree.
Professor David Croisdale-Appleby’s review of social work education published today, focuses on whether social work education properly equips those students who will work predominately with adults. Importantly, it also considers the whole system of education, training, continuous professional development, regulation and registration arrangements for all social workers.
I welcome Professor Croisdale–Appleby’s report and its sharp focus on social work as a unified profession. He recognises the importance of social workers developing their practice from a well-grounded generic qualification in social work, with opportunities for further specialisation and professional development.
One thing certain in life is change. Legislation, theories and our society at large are constantly developing and changing. Likewise, the social work qualification needed to equip social workers with critical thinking, analysis and sound decision-making skills must also keep pace with this change. In addition, it should give social workers the ability and confidence to take responsibility for continually developing their skills and knowledge.
It is refreshing to have clear acknowledgement from someone outside the profession that social work is an extraordinarily complex undertaking and many social workers are doing fantastic work.
Of course, more needs to be done to push further improvements to deliver high quality social workers and great social work practice. Raising the quality of practice standards, the education and training system, and importantly, the continuing professional development of existing qualified social workers, is essential to deliver a confident, capable profession.
What does matter is that social workers must be well equipped to undertake their crucial roles in supporting people and communities to achieve the best possible outcomes. They must be able to work across all age groups and take a holistic approach in understanding people’s lives. They must have the skills to protect the children, adults and families with whom they work and empower them to make positive changes in their lives. Students on the Step Up programme have reported how important their placements in adult mental health or substance misuse teams have been in preparing them for their work with children and families.
The right systems must be in place to support their practice, to ensure workloads are manageable and that reflective practice is well embedded in supervision arrangements.
What is reassuring is that government, academics, students, social workers, other professionals, the wider public and people who receive social work services are united in the vital role social work has to play in society. We all want it to be the best it can be.
Both reports present an opportunity for us to move forward in challenging and driving up the quality of social work in this country.
I look forward to working with everyone who cares to make this happen.
I will be blogging regularly about issues affecting social work as I work across government, the social work sector and the wider public, to help reposition social work at the heart of adult social care. I welcome your comments and views (positive and constructive!) to help bring about the improvements in social work which we all want to see.