The globalisation discourse, neo-liberalism and its impact on the education and training of social workers

Bates, John

September 2008

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© 2008 John Bates. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This research is concerned with the implementation of the new degree in social work following the Care Standards Act of 2000. The degree was introduced against a backcloth of extraordinary changes in the provision of welfare, the practical delivery of social work services and the education of social work students within a higher education setting which itself has undergone profound changes. It examines the political and economic changes which have impacted on the welfare state and how those in turn, have affected what is taught to social work students and how it is taught in our universities. By exploring the implementation of the degree in Wales insights from academics and government officials were analysed to gain a better understanding of the policy drivers which lay behind the implementation of the degree and its impact on the various 'players'. Nine participants were interviewed from different settings including the University, the Care Council for Wales and the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales. People's accounts revealed a sharp difference in perception as to the way the degree was introduced, the nature of partnership working and the ultimate effectiveness of the new degree in improving the skills and knowledge of future social work practitioners. Several implications for policy and practice are presented. The analysis suggests the need for a broader debate as to what is taught on social work programmes and how it might be assessed, which should involve academics, practitioners, service users and government officials. The task is to create a curriculum which offers a less predetermined understanding of practice characterised by uncertainty, without losing a concern for safe practice. This may require a shift of authority towards practitioners' situated judgements and away from predetermined outcomes, both in respect of programme planning and policy guidelines on the specification of standards. A new alliance is proposed to encourage a more authentic engagement with the process from practitioners, service users and social work educators.

Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
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