On a dark day, we need to be hopeful and proactive

A few months ago I wrote this blog about why a professional college for social work matters to me. Yesterday, I found out that the college of social work is to close because of lack of funding.

This news doesn’t change the reasons why a college matters to me:

  • It provides a collective voice for who we are - social workers get to decide what our professional identity is and the values we will work to; we need to work together to agree on these and to be clear about who we are.

  • It provides a collective influence on what we should do - most social workers are employed to carry out particular roles that are based on laws and policy that government decides, depending on what the electorate votes for; we need to work together to influence these laws and policies and to help inform the public about the capabilities and limits of social work, using evidence and our experience.

  • It provides collective leadership about the standards we work to - many of the ways in which we work are led by policy and standards that we don’t set; we need to work together on our own standards, using our skills and knowledge.

Some great things have come out of the college. I’ve got so much out of support for excellent practice and knowing I was represented nationally. The work the college has done - e.g. to strengthen our roles, to support social workers in mental health, to help us implement the Care Act and to build professional practice – has made a big difference to me.

So, I could be very despondent about the news. Except that evidence shows that an important part of resilience is optimism and the belief that you can change things. So I have decided to be hopeful and not give up.

Through the college I have met so many social workers who care about social work, want it to be recognised and excellent, and want this because it will help people who need social work. Practitioners, managers, professors, students, independents, directors… all with a joint aim, with talent and with the generosity to give up their time.

The college isn’t the only place to find passionate, talented social workers. However, it has provided a vehicle to gather and harness their expertise. It takes time to grow a college and we hadn’t yet captured the imagination and enthusiasm of enough hard-pressed social workers. However, I don’t see why the college’s motivation and expertise should be lost. There is still so much to do. And there is still the desire, talent and commitment to improve social work and to speak up for what we do. The need for a strong voice for social work is greater than ever.

We need to continue and build on passionate, vocal and active work to make social work as good as it can be. We need to make sure that social work does not become less able to make the difference that people need from us. This will include really understanding why we are where we are. Most importantly, along with many others, I will be looking for how I can keep the voice and work alive.

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