The College of Social Work

When considering what to talk about in this week’s blog it was obvious that it would be odd not to talk about The College of Social Work.

But I admit part of my initial reaction was hesitant. Why? It’s worth explaining because it’s relevant to what we will do next.

Certainly, I realise that I don’t fully understand exactly what happened or why. But also the stakes feel really high – for the sector there is a lot of emotional investment in the idea of the College and hence about its loss.

Wading into the debate always runs the risk of making it harder, not easier, to find the right way forward - too many opinions raise the emotional temperature and can feed a negative climate of blame. And I would not want to do that.

But for exactly the same reasons is important to try and contribute constructively.

It’s important to remember why the college was created in 2012 as an independent body with £5m government funding.

It emerged from the recommendation of the Social Work Task Force set up following much heart searching in the sector and by Government after the death of Peter Connelly in 2008.

So the College was created and for a while, for many, it seemed there was a ‘home’ and a place where it was hoped standards would be set and best practice for social work would be led.

The College strived to be a voice for social work and raise both the profile and understanding of the profession.

No doubt there will be much debate about the extent to which the college was able to achieve these ambitions in the relatively short time of its existence. And clearly there is a raft of complex reasons behind the inability of the College to get onto a sustainable financial footing during its four-year life.

But however its successes and difficulties are judged, it is clear that the College has held a significant place within the wider system and has had real meaning for the social work profession and beyond.

Whatever happens next we need to hold onto the intention which lay behind creating the College in the first place – to give the social work profession the standing it deserves and the status it needs to influence national policy-making and public debate. And that purpose is still valid and needed.

So as the dust starts to settle and options are considered we will need to think very carefully about what next. Let’s hope that this sad turn of events galvanises our determination to consider the future in a constructive spirit and that we avoid the unseemly squabbling which surrounded the creation of the College in the first place. We need a cool hard look at possibilities and the wisdom of our wisest thinkers to work out the best way forward.


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