MOTION FOR NATIONAL AGM 2014
Reconnecting Probation with Social Work
This AGM reasserts the probation service’s proud history rooted in social work and recognises the fundamental relevance of social work theory, practice and values to the probation service today.
To this end, AGM instructs:
(i) The Training Committee to immediately seek the inclusion of social work as a relevant degree for the purposes of the Probation Qualification Framework.
(ii) The Professional Committee to undertake a review of the international definition of social work and produce a report on how this relates to probation practice, identity and values.
(iii) The General Secretary, or a representative he shall appoint, to write to the head of the Probation Institute, informing them of the contents of this Motion and that, as co-founder, NAPO insists that the relevance of social work be properly recognised and active connections between social work and probation be developed, now and in the future.
Proposer: East Midlands Branch
Reconnecting Probation with Social Work
Conference, this Motion is entitled Reconnecting Probation with Social Work and I think I need to begin by saying a bit about what this is not about, before I say what it is about.
This motion is not about nostalgia. It is not a retreat into some kind of romantic past in an attempt to forget the horror of Transforming Rehabilitation. Neither does it deny the real and positive advances made by probation in the last twenty years.
What this motion is about: is making our profession stronger and more coherent. Anyone with the smallest knowledge of the history of social work will see that it is virtually identical to that of probation. Voluntary sector, faith based organisations working with the poor and the dispossessed that were absorbed into the state to perform statutory functions. If not exactly twins, Social work and Probation must be close siblings.
And yet Michael Howard, in his wisdom, tore us apart in 1995. Conference, there was a reason he did this and it was not so different to why Chris Grayling is trying to tear up our service now:
They do not understand what we do, and why we do it, and they despise our core values. Of course, probation staff never stopped doing social work.
As David Smith said in the British Journal of Social Work a few years ago:
“...for all the rhetoric of punishment and public protection, risk management and enforcement, when practitioners decide what they are actually going to do to engage and motivate clients, help them access resources, and convey a sense of hope in the possibility of constructive change, they will find themselves using the ideas and skills that have emerged from social work theory and research.” (2005:634)
At the Probation Chiefs Association conference earlier this year, Professor Rob Canton said the following:
“Just as probation was kicking social work out of the front door it crept back in through the back door“ But what did he mean by this? He meant that although a public show has been made of ejecting social work from probation we actually have no option but to draw on the theory, skills and values of social work, because we need them to be effective. A multi-disciplinary approach, ideas about professional judgement, care and control, a focus on communication skills - that relational dimension that Professor Gelsthorpe was talking about yesterday - safeguarding, anti-discriminatory practice, are all drawn from social work.
These are some of the keys areas of probation practice and yet social work isn’t even deemed a relevant degree for entering training. This is both sinister and nonsensical and is the reason why the first thing this motion instructs is:
(i) That the Training Committee immediately seeks the inclusion of social work as a relevant degree for the purposes of the Probation Qualification Framework.
If supported, this motion will also instruct:
(i) The Professional Committee to undertake a review of the international definition of social work and produce a report on how this relates to probation practice, identity and values.
It would also instruct the General Secretary to write to the head of the Probation Institute, informing them of the contents of this motion and that, as co-founder, NAPO insists that the relevance of social work be properly recognised and active connections between social work and probation be developed, now and in the future.
Conference, we may be in a time of crisis but now is surely the time to hold firm to our core values, set a positive course for this profession and to join arms with our comrades in CAFCASS, in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the global social work community. Please support this motion.
Martin Cawston (East Midlands Branch)