Poor leadership to blame for closure of College of Social Work

Just last month, the College of Social work closed its doors after failing to reach its target of 31,000 fee-paying members in 2015. Branded a ‘failure’ by the Department for Education and ‘rejected by the profession’, the college’s rapid demise has been put down to poor management.

Indeed, emails from Department for Education director Paul Kissack seem to suggest that the organisation had multiple internal issues, particularly a management structure that dealt poorly with their finances. High membership costs plus a well-publicised dispute with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) also did no favours to the short-lived college.

Poor management in healthcare appears to be a growing concern and we spoke recently about a ‘lack of leadership epidemic’ in the sector – the demise of TCSW is a prime example of this.

There Department of Health did acknowledge that the college had been instrumental in positively raising the profile of adult social work, which arguably still doesn’t quite have the same reputable nature as say, medicine or law. With the absence of the college, efforts still need to be continued to combat this perception and there needs to be a voice that can speak out for social workers – something that has been lacking since the closure of the college.

Many are looking at the BASW to act as a successor of sorts to the college. The largest professional association of registered social workers in the country, dating back to the 1970s, has offices all across the UK, unlike TCSW, which was based solely in England. However, there are concerns that previous conflict between the college and the BASW may make this a controversial move.

Interestingly, there are reports that the college’s death has been exaggerated which would suggest that there’s a chance that it could make a return. The college’s children faculty lead, Brigid Featherstone, has noted that there was a large amount of interest from social workers committing themselves to the college even after it has closed.

The College of Social Work was fraught with issues during its brief existence, so trying to revive it may be more effort than it’s worth. A poor leadership structure, as well as a lack of reputation management during the dispute with the BASW, means that the college was destined to struggle.

Whether the BASW takes the reigns, or another college is built from the ground up, there is no doubt in our minds that there needs to be some form of representation for social workers so that they can obtain essential help and guidance – we just hope it has a more secure management structure.