Timpson and Social Work Training

Yesterday at the Annual National Children and Adult Services Conference in Eastbourne, the Children Minister, Edward Timpson – appointed one month ago –  decided to share his expertise (!) in the sector by proposing a change in Social Work Education.

As the Guardian reports

Social work training should be overhauled so that newly qualified staff are “match fit” when they join the workforce, says the new children’s minister.

Edward Timpson, who was appointed in last month’s cabinet reshuffle, said he wanted the profession to attract the “brightest and the best”.

Well, there’s a way to indicate how little you know about social work, Mr Timpson.

I feel very strongly that we need to be clear what social work degrees should be delivering and what we expect them to deliver. Personally, I feel strongly that a social work degree course, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level does not have the role of pumping out ‘match fit’ social workers ready to slot straight into a team.

Employers have to take some responsibility for delivering and training post-qualification for the workforce that they want to meet their own needs. A social work degree is a generic academic course which provides the tools, knowledge and understanding of social work theory, social policy, law and ethics to be able to interpret and use in many varied practice situations both in the statutory sector and in third sector and private sector.

What I don’t want the social work degree to become is a ‘training course for LA social workers’ and to absolve employers of the responsibility for training.

The expertise of universities is to deliver the academic training and study and the role of the placement is to give some practice experience but two placements is not enough to deliver ‘match fit’ and I’d rather universities concentrated their time on delivering to their strengths which is the academic/research/knowledge base of social work.

Then we get on to Timpson’s comment about attracting the ‘brightest and best’ to the profession. I will refrain from swearing here although I’m tempted to say something rude to Timpson at this point.

To say that is to insult those of us who feel we actually ARE the brightest and best – practitioners and students from many different backgrounds – who are committed to deliver the best we can of our profession.

What exactly does he mean by ‘brightest and best’? Oxbridge degrees? Is that the mark? We need to ensure we have a broad range of entrants to the profession but I genuinely don’t see we aren’t getting that now.

I wish ministers would actually look at the profession and try to understand it, what the role of training is and what the intake actually is before trying to make grandstanding statements about unnecessary ‘overhauls’.

Maybe we need a bit more focus as a  nation on creating ‘match fit’ politicians – and if we did, it would be none of those career politicians who come from private schools and Oxbridge into Think Tanks and public life. Maybe they should just look into the mirror or try and understand the sectors they are responsible for before claiming they have all the answers.