Social promise

January 7, 2010

An open letter to Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health, from the social work higher education sector in response to the Social Work Task Force's final report.

On behalf of the higher education sector, we broadly welcome the Social Work Task Force report, which represents a chance for a renaissance of the social work profession. We are pleased that it is for all social workers and presents a system of reform that integrates and builds on existing initiatives.

In particular we welcome: the preservation of the core generic social work degree; the strengthening of criteria to improve the calibre of entrants to social work education; the assessed year in employment and specialist roles in first jobs; the career framework with pathways enabling skilled practitioners to remain in practice; the national College for Social Work run for and by social workers; more effective regulation of social work education; and stronger partnerships between employers, universities and service users.

However, we recognise that there is more to be done. In particular, work will be needed to: make the assessed year in employment work in reality (including assessment and funding); integrate the national college with existing organisations, sharing and unifying leadership in a new regulatory regime; build a clear and unified statement of expectations of qualifying education; develop placement provision, capacity and shared ownership; strengthen the research and evidence base for decisions taken for improvement; work together to build confidence in standards of entry and exit to the profession; and implement the recommendations, given current financial constraints.

We welcome the task force's recognition that partnership and collaboration will be required to take the next steps towards implementing its recommendations. Higher education organisations look forward to the opportunity to "step up to the plate".

We will be consulting early this year to more fully develop the sector's response to the recommendations and encourage colleagues with the Government's implementation plan.

We believe that by strengthening and building upon the social work degree and developing continuing professional development opportunities for practitioners and managers, social workers will be able to continue their education, engage in research throughout their professional lives and attain higher standards.

Hilary Tompsett, chair, Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee

Sue White, chair, Association of Professors of Social Work

Jackie Rafferty, director, Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Social Policy and Social Work.

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