Better joint working could improve quality of social work staff

The deputy chair of the Social Work Taskforce has said employers must work more closely with training providers to bolster the social work profession.

Addressing social workers at the annual General Social Care Council conference, Andrew Webb said the taskforce would be recommending the partnership of employers and educators as a central plank of ensuring high quality, appropriate initial training for new entrants to the profession.

He said social work managers could be expected to develop long-term approaches based on new guidance on supervision and caseloads.

“We will be making very strong statements on how the social work profession can attract the right people,” Webb told delegates.

“There needs to be closer working between employers and training providers to make sure there is much more active teaching of practice and we need employers to be clear about the conditions they must establish for their workers.”

Webb added that a three-year degree is capable of equipping social workers with a basic knowledge and skills base, but said people shouldn’t be allowed to practice as fully registered social workers until they have had a year in the job to “learn about skills in a highly protected way”.

Although Webb said that employers would be required to manage the caseloads of their workers, he said the taskforce would not be suggesting a standard figure for an acceptable caseload because the work of social workers is so varied.

He went on to say that while the Integrated Children’s System, the electronic record-keeping system for social workers, was shown to be one of the greatest sources of anxiety through the consultation process of the taskforce, it is the only method of recording most departments had. “We have to stick with it while we transform it,” Webb said.

Meanwhile in a questionnaire conducted by the taskforce regarding the possibility of a national college for social work, 99 per cent of respondents agreed a stronger voice was needed for the profession.

Asked to rank the most useful functions for a national college from a list of 10, the top four were, improving the understanding and status of social work among the public, providing a public face for the profession, setting and maintaining professional standards, and securing high quality training and professional development.

According to the responses, the lowest priorities for a national college should be improving pay and conditions and managing relations with other professions.