"A ‘world day’ dedicated to social work provides us with a welcome opportunity to celebrate our values as so often the profession only hits the headlines in times of crisis" says Jo Cleary, Chair of The College of Social Work, expressing her personal views in this debut blog for Social Care News...
It is also prescient as we look towards the forthcoming general election. While social work is rarely in the spotlight in its own right, social workers across the country are quietly and powerfully supporting communities and changing lives every single day.
And that’s what our new campaign ‘Real Social Work’ is about. We are fed up with being quiet. It is time to shout about the value we bring as a profession, and put social workers and their stories in the spotlight. Every candidate and potential new MP taking their seat in Westminster in May should understand that ‘real social work’ is not summed up by the occasional bad news story they might see; but by thousands of passionate and committed people across England doing extraordinary work.
But we also know that practitioners’ ability to deliver ‘real social work’ is hindered by a range of factors. High and complex caseloads, the lack of time to build quality relationships with service users and families, and a lack of public understanding of the job which affects morale. It is important that we acknowledge the challenges we face as a profession, and the context for positive change.
We want to see more investment in the profession in order for ‘real social work’ to thrive. Properly funded social work means better and stronger preventative work with service users, and can help avoid costlier and more intensive interventions later on. It is important we wake up to this: when you invest in social work, you invest in communities and you invest to save.
There is also a strong case for social work to sit at the heart of integrated care for adults. Social workers have the leadership expertise, knowledge and skills to be the ‘lynchpins for integration’ alongside GPs. A report we produced with the RCGP last year sets out several case studies which highlight the value of this kind of collaborative care. We must build on these models, which as well as improving people’s experiences, are shown to save money.
We also need a much more coherent framework for continuing professional development in social work, which properly reflects the changing environment practitioners are operating in. The CPD pathway for social work is much weaker than that for other professions such as medicine. This must shift if we are to drive up standards and ensure excellent practice into the future. It is welcome news therefore that Lyn Romeo, the Chief Social Worker for Adults has recently published a new knowledge and skills statement for social workers working with adults. This is a very welcome document, and we will be working with Lyn to ensure a clear and coherent professional standards framework for social work as we take forward our review of the PCF.
As the professional college for social work in England, we have a central role in working with government to make this happen. As our organisation continues to grow – membership now stands at 16,000 – we grow ever more committed to ensuring that the conditions for ‘real social work’ exist everywhere. Not least because this will return social work to the communities it serves. Working together as one united profession, we really do have the power to change lives and help secure dignity for all.
- Find out more about the colleges' ‘Real Social Work’ campaign
- Read The College of Social Work and RCGP report on integration