It has been a very difficult time for staff and members of the College of Social Work and for all of us in social work over the last few days and I have been thinking and reflecting on the consequences both for myself as a member of the College and obviously for my role as Chief Social Worker for Adults.
The main reason that the College was set up in the first place -- ‘to give the profession itself strong independent leadership’ -- has not gone away and it is vital that we don’t lose momentum in building confidence and credibility for social work’s place in shaping and influencing the empowerment of the people we have the privilege to serve and making sure their voices are heard.
The government’s austerity programme and the implications for those we work with, make it even more imperative that social workers are at the top of their game, ensuring that vulnerable children and adults with social care needs are supported in the best ways possible to make the changes necessary to have better lives. Professional and practice leadership from social workers out there, working with people day in and day out, and others who are passionate about the difference we can make, together with the voices of people who use services, must contribute to shaping modern social work practice and building professional confidence.
It is disappointing that the College wasn’t able to secure the sustainable financial footing it needed in order to fulfil its role as an independent body. The reasons and views about this have been discussed and shared from many in the sector and will continue to be for some time.
I am grateful for the work that the College, its members and staff have done in developing and improving professional standards and practice in relation to work with adults. I know that many members have given their own time on top of demanding jobs to contribute to the work required to shape and promote social work with adults, including in relation to the Care Act, the Knowledge and Skills Statement, mental health, working with capacity, autism and dementia and social work with older people more generally -- and it is important that the social work practice expertise that has been gathered together is not lost.
It also played a valuable role in supporting the Adult Principal Social Workers (PSW) network, ensuring we have been able to bring a much more robust focus on social work practice and practice leadership in adult social care and in integrated health and social care settings. The leadership functions provided by PSWs and the PSW network will continue to be supported and I will continue working closely with them to sustain the progress made in adult social care and further consolidate adult social work’s profile in health and social care.
There remains more to do to support employers to put in place the right conditions for social work to flourish and to ensure that the capabilities that social workers need to deliver the highest practice standards are seen as integral to the profession, in whatever setting social work is practised. More than ever we need highly skilled social workers who can take a whole family, relational-based approach to working with people across the life course, ensuring that our approaches are led by the person and their family and that plans are made by them and work for them, with our support.
History shows us that social work has adapted to societal changes and responded to the changing needs and aspirations of those we support. I believe social work will continue to have a vital role in working with people of all ages and in dealing with the challenging contexts in which they live and I hope you will support me as I continue in my role to raise the profile of social work to this effect.