The Narey Report on Social Work Education

On 13th February Sir Martin Narey published his long-awaited report on social work education. In this post Dendy Platt offers his initial response.

Sir Martin Narey’s report, published on 13th February, is typically challenging and hard-hitting, but it is also thoughtful and insightful.  Newspaper headlines have exaggerated some of his points, but behind these headlines are insights that social work academics would do well to heed.  I, for one, welcome the encouragement to continue to improve education in child development and child protection on social work degrees.  I also welcome the advice to move on from the dogma of anti-oppressive practice.  However, Sir Martin was wrong to appear (perhaps unintentionally) dismissive of the importance of ethics and values in social work.  There are fundamental and intense contradictions in our work.  Sir Martin is right that overemphasis on an empowerment approach can lead to collusion with the parent and insufficient focus on the child.  However, this is not an inevitable result, and good relationship-based practice is central to the work of social workers up and down the country, social workers who also keep the child clearly in view.  My own take on this is summed up in my editorial (with Danielle Turney) of a recent Special Issue of Child and Family Social Work.

That said, I welcome Sir Martin’s view that there should be greater clarity with regard to the curriculum.  The plethora of statements, competence requirements, and so forth, has long been a problem, and the former General Social Care Council was notably ineffective in addressing it.  The role of sorting out the mess is clearly one that should be taken on by the College of Social Work, as the report suggests.  The problem, however, is to avoid ending up with another mess.  Once all the different interest groups have made representations about what should appear in the social work curriculum, if those views are all incorporated, we risk ending up with such a huge range of topics that teaching them all to an acceptable level, and assessing the students adequately, will be completely beyond the scope of a three year degree.  Someone will have to prioritise. (more…)