Social care can be an extremely rewarding area of work to go into. However, because of a number of high profile cases it doesn’t always get good press. Real World looks at the changes in the profession following the recent scandals.
Social care is a broad umbrella term for the profession which includes social work. Other social care careers include: counsellors, probation workers, special needs support in schools and occupational therapy. One of the first questions you will probably be asking is what is the difference between social work and social care work? According to the website: www.socialworkcareers.co.uk, it can be defined as follows: ‘Social workers have to obtain a qualification, which from April 2003 has been an honours degree and are required to register with the General Social Care Council (GSCC). They will be involved at a high level with people who use social care services, working with them to assess their care requirements and working alongside other professionals such as doctors to make sure that every individual receives the particular type of support that he or she needs.’
The GSCC is the body that registers and regulates social workers. The chair of that body is Rosie Varley who took the helm just a matter of weeks before the Baby P scandal erupted. In an interview with the Guardian in February 2009 she said she had clear ideas about the role the GSCC could play in rebuilding the image of social work in the aftermath of the Baby P affair. She told the newspaper: ‘The theme that has run through all my professional work has been a commitment to raising standards in the services that are provided to vulnerable people, and particularly to improving the access to those services and promoting informed choice.’ She added: ‘[R]egulation of social care is new and has made a good start, but [...] as it matures it needs to raise its profile.’
The individual role of social workers can be extremely diverse. For example, it can cover child protection, mental health, elder abuse or safeguarding adults. At present the degree is a general one, involving practical skills including a minimum requirement of 200 days’ on-the-job placement. Working with children can be one of the most satisfying areas of social work, but because of recent scandals, this area is being scrutinised to ensure the same errors aren’t made in the future. In March 2009, Lord Laming presented his review of child protection services in England calling for a creation of a specialist children’s social work degree. His recommendations were not welcomed by all however. Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, told Community Care magazine that specialisation at undergraduate level would be a ‘mistake’.
At postgraduate level some universities offer short courses leading to a Masters award, which will enable you to practise as a social worker. Some favour a degree in a relevant subject and most require at least a 2:2. Because of the short length of the course you will be going on your first placement very early on in the course, and you will need a certain amount of relevant experience before you start. Remember: employers look favourably on mature candidates. Students need to be fully prepared and suitable for their practice placements and universities may ask you to supply a reference from a social worker to confirm that you already meet the requirements concerning preparation for assessed practice.
While the future of specialised undergraduate courses remains uncertain, it is clear is that the only way for the reputation of social work to be restored in the UK is by the best possible candidates being attracted to the profession – and that could mean you!