Coalition Converges Qualified Social Workers with GPsSocial Work
What exactly is the purpose of the government’s plans to integrate health and social care?
Strategic methods must be implemented to prevent the coalition’s cuts in public spending from adversely impacting the basic needs of individuals. One such strategy has been to integrate health and social care so that qualified social workers can work more closely with GPs and nurses to offer joined up solutions and hopefully increase standards on a smaller budget.
The plans to place social workers in GP surgeries may also help to raise the profile of social work which has faced a barrage of negative press in recent years. Social Care Recruitment Companies around the country have for several years been experiencing a decrease in new candidates. The hope is that by merging the two professions, qualified social workers will enjoy a level of prestige similar to GPs and nurses.
But professionals are sceptical about the success of these plans, querying whether the needs of the patients and clients are being overshadowed by the politics of hierarchy. An article published on the Community Care website criticises the convergence for jettisoning the genuine needs of patients in preference for unspecified schemes aimed at addressing issues such as obesity and teenage pregnancy.
“[The convergence] means a further move away from playing a constructive role in response to the needs of children with disabilities or those whose parents have mental health problems. Instead they are carrying out surveillance and control functions in relation to a substantial section of the population.”
The proposed change would mean that qualified social workers would have to adopt a disproportionately administrative role. Rather than improving the public’s attitude to social work, this would entirely reshape it into a role which is actually less valuable to society.
But nonetheless, the current role of social workers will still be necessary. Instead of decreasing the need for social workers, this new plan would need to increase spending in, for example, locum social work. While permanent social workers are caught up in surgeries, all practical and placement based work would still need to be conducted.
The strategic design will need to be carefully considered. While the status of social workers should be improved, redefining social work is not the answer. They already conduct important and necessary work, the focus should be on improving awareness of the important services of qualified social workers.