Social worker training ‘not fit for purpose’

Author: By Richard Garner, Education Editor

MPs on the influential Commons select committee monitoring children?s services
warn that the training of social workers “is not fit for purpose”.

University courses in the subject are considered “easy to pass” – partly
because universities face financial penalties if they expel students and
partly because of an anxiety about staff shortages in the profession.

As a result, says the report, new recruits to the profession often find
themselves being sent out to deal with families in the most challenging
circumstances.

“”Vulnerable children and families depend, often for their lives, on
competent professional help from social work professionals,” said Barry
Sheerman, chairman of the committee and Labour MP for Huddersfield.

The report added: “It is unacceptable that social work courses, or any
element of them, should have a reputation for being ?difficult to fail?.

“A review of the funding arrangements for social work degrees is needed to
ensure that there are no in

The MPs conducted their inquiry into the wake of the Baby Peter tragedy in
Haringey, north London, the toddler who died after being found with more
than fifty different injuries inflicted at his home while in the care of his
mother, her boyfriend and her lodger.

They found also that those applying to join social work courses had lower
A-level qualifications generally than students opting for similar public
service careers – such as teaching and medicine.

The report concluded: “When social workers are poorly trained – lacking in
knowledge, skills or experience – or left unsupported in highly pressured
situations, children?s lives are put in danger.

“Nine years on from the tragedy of Victoria Climbie – (another Haringey
toddler whose death exposed a harrowing tale of abuse and neglect by social
workers), the lack of a coherent and prestigious national profile for the
social work profession appears to us to be perhaps the most important
failing of the Every Child Matters (the government?s programme for improving
children?s services) reforms.”

“Social workers need a high quality national training body and high profile
national leadership of their profession and they need to be better
rewarded,” Mr Sheerman added.

The MPs also recommend a ban on sending trainee social workers on placements
to authorities assessed by Ofsted, the children?s services watchdog, as
“performing poorly”. Earlier this month it emerged that – out of nine spot
checks on authorities carried out by Ofsted since the baby Peter case – six
had given “cause for concern”.

The report also calls for action to improve pay and the standing of the
profession from ministers – which it acknowledges they have achieved in
reforms to the teaching profession.

“High vacancies and retention problems have plagued children families social
work for too long,” it added.

Today?s report comes the day after a government task force produced its own
interim report on improving the training of social workers. It also warned
that “widespread staffing shortages mean that social work is struggling to
hold its own as a durable, attractive public service profession –
compromising its ability to deliver consistent quality on the frontline”.

A final report will be published in the autumn.

Children?s Minister Delyth Morgan welcomed the MPs? “timely” report.

She added: “The Government is committed to ensuring that social workers have
the training they need to practice to the highest professional standard.”

Sir Steve Bullock, from the Local Government association, said that too many
graduates of social work courses were unprepared for the reality of the
difficult jobs they would face.

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