Professional Social Work?

Community Care are running a story today that reports on a survey of practitioners conducted by the College of Social Work that found “Most social workers would not pay more than £50 to join the College of Social Work”.

The College, recommended by the Social Work Task Force last year, is charged with improving the Social Work profession through five functions:

  • providing a strong voice for, and leadership to, the profession;
  • defining the values and purpose of social work;
  • developing, upholding and supporting standards;
  • providing guidance and support to the profession; and
  • shaping training and development.

Most professions have professional colleges or bodies that support this sort of work. Most professionals pay registration fees to a national college or body. In fact a quick bit of googling revealed that professionals pay the following: teachers pay £36.50 per year, psychologists pay £110 per year, accountants pay c £220 per year, occupational therapists pay c £250 per year.

So I appreciate that there is a range of fees paid depending on profession but my personal view is that if Social Workers value their profession then they may just need to pay to preserve and promote it and £50 a year really isn’t going to go very far. That said, I agree with many others who have been commenting that for many people the College’s offer is still not clear – and who would offer money without knowing what they’d get for it. Guess time will tell.

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6 thoughts on “Professional Social Work?

  1. Thanks for the post, George.

    I think a professional body that does those things for social care professionals (note – not just social workers) would be great, and would bring the profile of social care and social care professionals to where it should be.

    I’d be wary, though, of having several different bodies. Putting aside the unions (they serve a completely different function), I don’t see why one organisation – with the appropriate governance arrangements – can’t cover all of the above plus anything that any of the other multitude of organisations currently or is planned to cover.

    This would have the cohesive benefit of being the one body who everyone knows you go to, plus the administrative benefit of economies of scale and (you’d hope) cheaper fees for professionals. At least one concern of this approach would be too much power in one body (cf the BMA), but it’s a risk worth paying.

    If CQC can do all the things it does across health and social care, and with the forthcoming inclusion of patient/user voice through the national HealthWatch, then there can be a single body for social care professionals.

  2. Interesting debate. I pretty much agree with Rich, and you, with it as ultimately a small cost for a higher professional standing, for a profession that is still someway behind where it needs and deserves to be. It’s a current weak spot in social work and such a system would close the loophole and probably have a range of positive externalities over time that would far outweigh the monetary cost.

    Yet looking at it from an economist point of view (pardon me: I’ve been reading the Freakonomics books lately and have a long-term interest in how economic forces shape decisions!) I can see the surveyed people’s point. It’s hard to convince individuals to invest in something where they don’t see direct benefit, and would be especially so when the profession feels embattled by gvt / press or morale is low. “Why should I pay to feel worthwhile (or for others to perceive me as such) when there’s no evidence it will make any difference? Should not WHAT I DO be how I am judged not by membership of a body? What about all these OTHER messages I’m getting about not being worthwhile (job losses, pay freezes, service cut)?”

    I don’t know what the route could be – some kind of explicit partnership investment system from gvt, LAs and individual social workers would probably be the best, but I can’t see that being more than an idealistic whim with how things are right now.

  3. I’d be willing to pay a comparable amount to the OT college if the same functions (including some kind of arrangement with unison) is delivered. The problem at the moment is that it is all a bit ‘pie in the sky’ and until the college moves out of its interim status and tallies up all the information from the consultation, it’s hard for it to set an overly high price. At the moment, I pay £22.50 per month for Unison and £18.30 for BASW. That’s (eek) £489.60 per annum plus the £30 per year for my GSCC registration. Perhaps that’s why I’d be reluctant to pay additionally for a College of Social Work without knowing what and if it is going to take any of these roles over.
    (and it isn’t SUCH a small cost.. I didn’t realise I was paying that much until i just worked it out now!)

  4. Sorry, I meant to add, that bearing in mind that I’m paying over £500 for what arguably, OTs pay £250 per year for (professional association + union), it’s a bit rich to say that social workers aren’t willing to pay for professional status!

  5. Interesting post George!

    I think this is a fascinating discussion but I was interested in the surprise expressed about social workers only being prepared to pay £50. I completed the online consultation and I can only describe the survey as clunky, the questions difficult to answer and it was very time consuming. Not a good start to introducing the College for Social Work.

    I think a key issue, and not yet understood by the Interim Board, is that the professional membership market is very competitive. We will all make comparisons with the membership benefits provided by other professional bodies. I looked at the Royal College of Nursing (£193 full membership and varying rates for other categories) and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (£150)

    Regretfully, like many other people, I still have to be convinced about the value added by the College of Social Work. I agree that we need a strong and independent voice which generates debate, shapes care policies and challenges the status quo if it is not of benefit to the social work profession. The current marketing and communications strategy does not give me confidence in their capacity to provide a strong voice for, and leadership to, the profession.

  6. As one of the psychologists you mentioned, I thought I’d chip in. I’m not yet at a stage where I have to worry about insurance, union membership or the like, but I’m keeping a close eye on costs. Fully trained practitioner psychologists have only recently had to join the Health Professions Council to remain accredited, so the British Psychological Society has lost some of its accountability role. I don’t know how this has affected membership.

    As I’m still within 3 years of graduating and not earning much (anything in my case!), I am entitled to reduced fees. I’m a member of the BPS, as it gives me reduced access to conferences workshops and CPD events – that’s my main motivation to be a member. I’m also a member of a division and a special section within the society, at minimal extra charges as a post-grad student.

    The journal(s) that drop through my door occasionally are worth a look – hopefully one will arrive with my article in it some point soon, but they are not enough of a reason to be a member – the training is. This year I’ve been to two different research methods courses, a post-grad workshop and the divisional conference and loved it all. These are also great places to network. I’d hope that any such organisation for social work professionals would be able to offer similar opportunities!

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