BASW report is misguided: social work needs leadership not legislation

Update: Andy’s comments have been written up in Community Care.

I have argued in the media, including here in the Independent and here in the Guardian, that social work is an overworked, underpaid and undervalued profession, when any reasonable comparison is made to other health or children’s services professions.   Now the British Association of Social Workers thinks it has the answer: the publication of a Social Work Bill.     This is an extract from the BASW description of the key measures:

  • The establishment of the office of a Chief Social Worker.
  • The establishment of a Social Work Commissioning Board to deploy funding fromgovernment to localised Generic Social Work Boards, which will be comprised of anumber of organisations to oversee Social Work support, instead of relying solelyon failing local authorities.
  • The formation of local Generic Social Work Boards, made up of a local authorityrepresentative, a GP commissioning consortium representative, one representativeof each of its social work practices, service users and carers including two youngpeople under 18, and members of the public.   The Boards will only employ a Chief Executive and an administrator and they will be accountable to service users andcarers in that community.
  • The statutory recognition of a College of Social Work to amend the law with respect to the regulation and inspection of the profession and to ensure effective publicservices and public protection.

Am I missing something, or is this a Bill calling for one national quango and hundreds of local quangos?   Just as government is abolishing the PCTs and creating local wellbeing boards to integrate local health and social care, BASW is proposing a move in the opposite direction that will entrench service silos and create new bureaucracy.      BASW has also missed the whole point of our call for a Royal College – an idea that now has very broad support.   We want this body to be a national voice for social work, working with UNISON (and BASW if they wished) on a par with the RCN or the BMA.  Instead, BASW is calling for it to be another regulatory body.    The thrust of BASWs’ approach – saying that local authorities are the problem – is counter productive at a time when they should be working positively and more collaboratively than ever with local authorities to support the profession and, crucially, deliver excellent social care and safeguarding, at a time of unprecedented challenge in budgets and increasing service pressures.   BASW to the drawing board please.