Huge opportunity, not “civil war” – BASW

The chief executive of the newly launched BASW – The College of Social Work, Hilton Dawson, outlined his vision for BASW – The College of Social Work at a conference on reforming social work in London this week.

At a separate event this week he also made it clear there is no need for the use of a mediation service to hold discussions with the Interim Board of the as yet unestablished college being planned by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

Sharing a stage at the London conference with the chair of SCIE, Allan Bowman, Mr Dawson refuted media suggestions of a “civil war in social work in England” between his organisation and SCIE: “This isn’t a civil war, what we announced is a peaceful revolution.

“It is about social workers intent on ensuring that they never ever again have to put up with situations that the profession currently finds itself where its voice is not heard and where it is not listened to. It is the sort of revolution social work does need and it is important we all look at ourselves and how we can bring about change,” said Mr Dawson at the event on 25 January.

At a separate conference in Worcester two days later Mr Dawson rejected a suggestion from SCIE that formal mediation was necessary to agree a return to any form of convergence process, insisting that BASW – The College of Social Work was willing to sit down and work with the Interim Board – set up to work on the SCIE concept for a college – provided it “acknowledges the unethical behaviour that occurred last November during our negotiations with them”.

Mr Dawson was referring to the decision to agree a deal between the Interim Board and the trade union Unison, without involving BASW and giving the Association just one hour’s notice of the development in a press release.

Speaking after the Worcester event Mr Dawson said that as well as debating with Mr Bowman he had spoken with four members of the Interim Board about the current situation, including the joint chair of the Interim Board, Corrine May-Chahal. “As such, there is absolutely no need for mediation, we are all professionals and conversed in a professional manner. I told Corrine that BASW – The College of Social Work will meet with the Interim Board anytime to discuss how we can restore the trust and confidence we have lost in them, provided there is that acknowledgement.”

Addressing the launch of BASW – The College of Social Work at the London conference, Social Work Reform, Supporting Social Workers Supporting Children, Mr Dawson set out the basis for BASW’s decision, prompted after convergence talks between BASW and SCIE officials and the Interim Board collapsed.

“We are now The College of Social Work, not just because we own the name, but because we own the constitution which has underpinned BASW for the last 41 years,” Mr Dawson told the conference.

He explained that BASW – The College of Social Work owns one “the world’s foremost social work journal” and “has the best Advice and Representation Service” in the profession, and added that the Association would be developing an independent trade union arm to improve the services to members.

“Whenever social work is spoken about, the College should be consulted and should respond,” said Mr Dawson. “That college needs to be set up by the profession.

“Never has there been a more important time for social workers to stand up and join a college to take the profession forward and own the college. We need a powerful college and one that can have a powerful voice.”

BASW – The College of Social Work is calling for real power to be given to service users and carers, a new role of chief social worker, a minister for social work, a transparent system of financing social work and a protection of the function of a social worker. Each of these proposals was outlined in the BASW Social Work Bill published in November.

“We can be better together for adults, children and families,” concluded Mr Dawson. “Let’s start to change social work together.”