Community Care recently publicised that £8.5 million was given to private companies to develop the social worker accreditation scheme. This information was released by government over the christmas period. I am sure the timing of the release of this information was designed to ensure it disappears without trace so as not to attract the attention of those, such as myself, who are disillusioned by governments failure, and those who represent social work to government, to do nothing but tinker around the edges and not address the real issues which face both those who receive and deliver social work services.
I am perturbed by this news for two reasons. The proposed accreditation system is a costly red herring which detracts attention away from the real issues impacting social work practice today. Secondly the future of social work in the UK appears to be being shaped by a few powerful and well connected individuals and multi-national corporations rather than the voice of those in practice and those who require social work support.
Firstly, lets consider how the new proposed accreditation process might have improved the practice of the manager who was recently made subject to a 12-month conditions of practice order by the HCPC for ‘supervision failure’, despite the fitness to practice panel saying he worked with “a heavy caseload, poor working conditions, inadequate management support of him in his role as a manager and significant personal health issues”. At one stage, the social work manager was responsible for managing about 120 cases, whereas 65 cases was deemed an optimum caseload.
How many people reading this are now thinking, this could be me I wonder ?
I do not believe the proposed accreditation process would make a difference to those in a similar position because it will not address the failure by government, and those who represent the profession, to get to grips with the real issues that significantly impact on professional practice and individuals lives.
Factors such as high case loads, diminishing resources, bureaucratic systems; organisational culture, burnout, limited opportunity to give or receive high quality supervision, lack of a coherent and funded CPD programme, political failure to address issues such poverty in income, food poverty, fuel poverty, poor housing, job insecurity, inequality and a pervading sense of hopelessness as both those who require services and deliver services see little authenticity in governments approach to effect genuine improvement.
My second concern is the continued involvement of private companies, such as Morning Lane Associates, in shaping the future of social work. Morning Lane is a consultancy company co-founded by the current chief social worker Isabelle Trowler. A previous investigation into the chief social workers role in the development of the accreditation scheme found the chief social worker had been consulted on the bid, worth an initial £2.6m..
This is not a one off in successfully attaining funding either, in addition Morning Lane has received millions as professional advisor and training partner to Frontline, alongwith £4m in Innovation Fund money to roll out its Reclaiming Social Work model to five authorities.
We will see more involvement of Morning Lane in 2018 when Frontline receives more funding via additional funding for fast track social work training schemes in 2018. In respect of this funding the DfE says £35m was invested in Step Up and Frontline between 2010 and 2015 and £100m will be invested over the next four years.
However, the Department has refused to provide a breakdown of how the funding was split between the two programmes.
While there is no suggestion of legal wrongdoing, fears continue that children’s social work is being pushed in a particular direction by the agenda of a small number of powerful well connected people with a large amount of influence, and a large amount of resources at their disposal.
For example it is reported Frontline’s support comes from across the globe, receiving ‘pro bono’ support from several powerful, and influential private multi-national companies, for example;
- The Boston Consulting Group, an American worldwide management consulting firm with 90 offices in 50 countries. The firm advises clients in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors around the world, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 and is one of the ‘Big Three’ strategy consulting firms.
- The Alexander Partnership which is Europe’s leading provider of executive coaching, leadership and culture development.
- Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO (AMV BBDO) is an advertising agency that works with over 85 brands, including BT, Sainsbury’s, Diageo, Walkers and Mars. AMV is part of the BBDO network, the third largest agency network in the world and part of the Omnicom Group.
- Baker McKenzie, founded as Baker & McKenzie in 1949, is a multinational law firm. As of August 2017, it is ranked as the second-largest international law firm in the world . It is also ranked as the second largest law firm in the world in terms of revenue with US$2.67 billion in annual revenue
One wonders why social work in the UK requires steerage from multi-national corporate influences and this begs the question just how does the current approach align with social work values as defined within a global perspective?
The rise and rise of Frontline is a good example of the changing world in which social work education is emerging. Ark is a charity which co-founded Frontline. However, it is also a profit making company and was set up as an alternative investment industry focusing on global education. The power of such organisations are changing the educational landscape and is increasingly highly influential in shaping public policy and redefining the role of government and businesses in the production, management and delivery of public services embracing neoliberal ideology. (see World Yearbook of Education 2016: The Global Education Industry)
It’s all a very long way away from the social worker on the real frontline who enters the complex lives of those they work with on a daily basis. Neither can imagine what it must feel like to enjoy the resources, power and influence of those shaping both their futures.