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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Engage: Social work needs more engagement, not a fast track scheme

Written by Di Galpin, Plymouth University

Fast-tracking people through social work will not address the problems of recruitment and retention for the profession, according to a Plymouth University academic.

Di Galpin, Academic lead in social work, said the greatest change has to come from changing the culture of the job, including tackling issues of blame, high case-loads and burnout.

She made the comments in response to the introduction of Government schemes, such as Frontline, to address the perceived failure of the social work profession. 

The government wants more than 2,000 children’s social workers to be trained on fast track schemes by 2021, but Di questions, will it really address issues of recruitment and retention? She was asked by The Guardian to outline her concerns and the piece has already been shared more than 20,000 times.

Di said: "Research suggests the average working life for social workers is less than eight years, compared with 16 for a nurse and 25 for a doctor. Clearly, this represents a low return on the investment in training, and real challenges for building and retaining professional expertise.

"Fast track schemes are unlikely to be the panacea government expects, given Frontline has established links with the civil service fast stream for participants who decide they do not want to be involved in direct social work practice. This means that those who do two years can go straight into policy/government rather than working on the frontline of child protection, which will not help the poor retention rates we already have.”

Di continues: "As an educator, I believe issues such as social justice and human rights are core to the social work profession across all disciplines. This involves educators and students engaging emotionally with moral issues such as justice and care, and their relevance to real people’s lives. Our curriculums are structured accordingly.

"However, if government does not believe these are core to the profession… then there is clearly a gap between what is currently taught and government’s understanding of social work and expectation of social work practice.”

To read the full article and supplementary research, select the links below.

About the Author

Di Galpin is Academic Lead for Social Work at Plymouth University and is conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for her doctorate. Di is also a qualified social worker and has worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services.