Having got myself all excited about our Local Authority signing up for the ASWP (Advanced Social Work Professional) status I have been bitterly disappointed this week. The scheme run and organised by the children’s workforce development council is brilliant. It is an excellent way of keeping excellent and skilled social workers working with children, that may not want to develop upwards to become managers.
The ASWP status aims to make a difference to the lives of children and families by:
- Encouraging excellent social workers to remain on the front line.
- Promoting standards which other social workers can aspire to.
- Strengthening professional leadership by combining experience with the latest thinking.
- Enabling employers to identify staff capable of greater autonomy.
How could you argue or find fault in this? Well I attended the briefing this week as my manager was on leave. I am glad that I attended because sometimes the message that comes back is some what confusing. At least this way I was able to ask the really important question. The question that burst the bubble for me and many of the other managers around the table to.
“How much autonomy will this status have?” Bang! I knew the answer really, there have been many changes recently in the guidance, that there is very little autonomy any social worker can really truelly have when working with looked after children. The answer was, We have yet to look at how we will implement this and decide how this will work within the teams. Really, maybe we should have done so before inviting the CWDC to discuss this with us!
The application process itself is relatively simple although may take some time to write up and allowing time to reflect on your experience and practise. But then the decision making process becomes intense and fast in the work and evidence needed to organise and finish the process. Which from start to finish can be completed within 12 weeks ending in a direct observation of your practise and interviews with yourself, manager and the people that you work with.
My second disappointment is found here that our own Local Authority want to make the application process a little bit harder and limit the people who can apply. By having a interview stage first with the senior management to see whether the potential candidates have the knowledge and ability to do this. Which surely can be evidenced first by checking and approving the lengthy application form, without making this any harder?
This scheme has been piloted, and in Sheffield they have gone one step further
and created a role rather than a status. The advantage of this is that you can follow the guidance of the CWDC more closely and make this process more attractive to more experienced social workers. Making it a real incentive to keep workers on the front line and holding more complex cases.
I guess what is important to remember is that not everyone can be a ASWP, you have to have the experience, training and knowledge to back it up. You also need to be able to inspire and share your experiences with newer members of staff.
And for me, I hope that from now to when we introduce this scheme that our own employers invest more time into how they can make this status work. As the benefits to the teams and especially the teams working within Child Protection could benefit immensely from this.