The Social Workers Assembly

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The Social Workers Assembly

Postby Tolkny » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:11 pm


    Regaining A Voice For Social Work:

    The present priority

    by Peter Beresford

    July 7, 2015

The closure of the College of Social Work (TCSW) should not be seen in isolation. It has long had its friends and enemies, but if social work is to have a progressive future then all stakeholders will need to spend more time addressing the threats facing it and come out of their silos to build alliances. Attacks on social work increasingly need to be seen as attacks on some of the most disempowered and marginalised groups in society; disabled people, mental health service users, people who are dying, asylum seekers and poor families.

This is why the closure of TCSW has such symbolic as well as practical significance. The issue is no longer that social work can expect routine harassment from media and policymakers. Now the political project is clearly to recast it to match the prevailing neoliberal project, which is concerned with the deregulation of the market, regressive redistribution, the commodification and privatising of everything, increasing economic insecurity for many and untrammelled wealth and power for a few. Our political masters are looking to restructure social work and social work education to create a controlling rather than liberatory force and profession. They have already piloted this experiment with probation.

Social work now faces threats from outside which are generating divisions within. Attacks on social work numbers are already having a destructive effect on social work education, with courses at risk and undergraduate course at particular risk because of top-down conventional wisdoms that grades and university status are more important than the kind of human qualities and the skills valued by service users. Thus so-called ‘elite’ routes like Frontline and Think Ahead are being privileged both in resources and status, although their long term effects on the workforce are likely to be damaging and divisive as they seek to develop a corps of fast track senior managers divorced from the experience of both the workforce and service users – all the better to control them. The growing links between social work and the private sector are exemplified by the high profile roles of KPMG and Morning Lane Associates (with its historic links with the Chief Social Worker for Children). A nexus of relationships advancing the government’s privatising agenda for social work is beginning to emerge, encouraged by preferential government funding.

If ever there were a time for social work to have a strong voice committed to social justice, this is it. But this needs to be an even stronger voice than has so far been considered. Crucially it cannot be a lone voice, articulated by social work’s conventional leaders. This is likely to cut little ice with a government like the current one, whose response we can expect to be ‘You would say that, you don’t want cuts because you don’t want to lose your jobs’!

What is needed instead is a social work voice:

    • That has real links with service users and their organisations and seeks to involve them from the start equally and effectively. I have already had contact with self-appointed social work leaders over the TCSW closure who show little understanding that there is a powerful body of democratically constituted user led organisations out there, who expect something more than being used as a stage army to support professional claims.

    • In which current social work practitioners can take the lead. Their voices have long been marginal in many social work initiatives, including the production of social work knowledge; the shaping of social work practice and in schools based social work learning. So long as this happens, social work seems to mirror the wider world and its critics in devaluing social work practice and practitioners.

    • Which seeks close links with social care and its workforce and aims to work closely with both rather than highlighting professional distinctions from it.

    • That is ambitious to reflect the diversity that has long characterised the social work profession, diversity extending to all the equalities and which takes full account of our multi-facetted identities and issues of intersectionality.

It has to be a voice that reinforces rather than competes with other professional and trade union organisations and forums, from BASW, SWAN and the Association of Palliative Care Social Workers, to UNISON and UNITE. The Social Work Action Network has demonstrated in its process, its initiatives and its campaigns, that it is possible to involve service users, carers, current practitioners, social work students, educators and academics on a large scale, locally, nationally and internationally. If we don’t all pull together, then we can be sure that our Cabinet heavily weighted to old Etonians certainly will!!

Peter Beresford is a Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University and Chair of Shaping Our Lives, the national disabled people’s and service users organisation.


1 comment

It also needs to engage with probation and family court service workers, not all of whom are now necessarily either ‘probation or family court officers’ though the majority do hold pre entry academic/practical qualifications that derived from the former CQSW.

They are likely to either work for the National Probation Service (NPS), or the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) in England & Wales or public employers doing similar work in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

They may well also belong to one of the three Trades Unions that represent them in England and and Wales and Northern Ireland – Napo (formerly National Association of Probation Officers – a professional association LONG before it also became a Trades Union & founder of the continuing practice journal “The Probation Journal”), Unison and GMB (SCOOP section – which I think stands for something like – “Society of Chief Officers Of Probation”). Each of those organisations mentioned needs to be added to the list given above – there are other related organisations that represent special groups working in probation & family court work and specialist work and they need to be sought out as well as nowadays many practitioners may be more likely to engage in the subsidiary or specialist associations than the larger (though still comparative small in membership totals) overarching generalist organisations.

With all the disruption in the last seven or eight years, I suspect there are significant numbers who are not involved in any professional organisation beyond their prime employer.

It might be worth also engaging with the recently retired and resigned – some who moved on because they were not able to practice social work as they believed it was needed, but nonetheless have much to contribute to a refashioning of social work organisationally in the UK.

Andrew S Hatton
Posts: 1123
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:01 am

Re: The Social Workers Assembly

Postby Tolkny » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:20 pm

I see that the The Social Workers Assembly has a Twitter Account: _

And are also represented on Facebook: -

AND LinkedIn: -

I also see that
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) intends to hold an Autumn summit on the future of social work in the wake of the closure of the College of Social Work

Andrew S Hatton
Posts: 1123
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:01 am

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