Criticism for ‘voluntary social worker’ title

Social work must be championed to be recognised as a distinct profession in the same way as medicine, according to the chief executive of the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

Penny Thompson spoke out following comments by the children’s minister Tim Loughton, reported in the Guardian, in which he described volunteers working alongside social work professionals as ‘voluntary social workers’.

“Somebody needs to be saying don’t call them voluntary social workers, you would not say voluntary doctors,” she told delegates at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester:

Ms Thompson said social work needed a champion to speak up on behalf of social workers and the College of Social Work would perform the role.

But at an earlier session she said social workers would need to invest in the development of their profession and questioned claims that some would be reluctant to pay a fee to be a member of the College.

“Social workers are going to have to invest in themselves. Truthfully, if physiotherapists can do it and if occupational therapists can have a professional college and get a voice and then there’s no reason why social workers can’t.

“We must not allow people to be victims in this,” she said, adding: “We can’t be saying our fate is outside of our hands. There is an opportunity to take part.”

She went on to say that the Health Professions Council, which will take over regulation of social work in 2012, would only be responsible for upholding basic standards within the profession.

Ms Thompson said that social work would be the sixteenth profession to be regulated by the HPC and it could not be expected to fulfil the functions that the GSCC has performed.

“The HPC will have a very constrained role. It will ensure basic standards but the College has to be the champion of excellent standards,” she added.