Is current social work education sufficient?
With Sir Martin Narey’s report today about social work education it quite rightly identifies areas of training and preparation for new social workers that needs to be improved. But lets not carried away, as some commentators have, by thinking that this is some major indictment of the profession and somehow panders to the right wing press’s view of so called ‘do gooders’ interfering in peoples lives all the time with little or no structured idea of support. What it should be seen as is an evolutionary step in social work maturity where continuing improvement is a positive force.
I was the advisor in the South West of England when the now defunct Children’s Workforce Development Council oversaw the Newly Qualified Social Worker Programme. For three years I experienced the highs and the lows of new social workers being assimilated from university to employers. Yes, there were quite a few occasions when I met people I didn’t think were yet fit to practice – and said so as much as my mandate allowed me to (which always made me feel I wasn’t allowed to say as much as I could). I felt on these occasions that some universities had not got it right in aiding much needed preparation for the real world and that prospective employers, mainly local authorities, had not done enough to offer meaningful placements.
This being said, the majority of Newly Qualified Social Workers that I met made me proud to belong to the profession. I do understand that having fought long and hard for degree status there shouldn’t be any back sliding and it should mean the same right across the country. I also believe that the calibre of people coming into the profession would be consistently higher if previous appropriate life experience was high on the check list as well. It takes so much social competence as well as academic ability to combine when making assessments of peoples needs in a very complex environment.
The future of social work
For once I’d really like to see a coming together, without political favour, of all the bodies and institutions who have input into social work training and the carpet lifted away from the vulnerable and dispossessed.
Ideally I’d like to see social work recognised for the excellence it offers our community and for those entering the profession to be intelligent, capable, socially skilled and compassionate – as well as academically gifted and capable.
I’d also like to see interviews for social work posts – which currently are still competence based – to include some broader questions which, even in their simplicity, would be helpful. Such as “do you like children?”.
Further thoughts on Newly Qualified Social Workers and their important and difficult roles and situations – Thoughts On Newly Qualified Social Workersby