HC Deb 25 January 1994 vol 236 cc146-7
2. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what changes she intends to make to the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Under its recently appointed chairman, Jeffrey Greenwood, the CCETSW is undergoing substantial reform, both in its internal management structure and in the education and training for social workers for which it is responsible. The underlying intention of these changes is to ensure that social workers are equipped for the difficult job that they do with knowledge, practical skills and common sense.

Mr. Riddick

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the reform will extend to the CCETSW document, which states: CCETSW believes that racism is endemic in the values, attitudes and structures of British society"? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the job advertisement for a lecturer in social work at the then Leeds polytechnic, which sought someone with a commitment to"anti-oppressive practice"? Is it not that sort of left-wing, politically correct nonsense that makes some people believe that social workers do not live in the real world?

Mrs. Bottomley

There can be no place in the training of social workers for politically correct notions, for the domination of ideology and textbook theories over practical skills for children. Social workers have an important job to do, and their decisions should not be informed by fashionable theories, but by sensible, time-honoured principles and values.

Ms Jowell

As a former social worker, does the Secretary of State not recognise the complex job they do on behalf of society with people whose lives are often marked by discrimination on grounds of race or disability? Does she not recognise the importance of social workers being properly trained to meet those challenges?

Mrs. Bottomley

As a qualified social worker, I have all the more reason to feel impatient at the way in which good social workers have their work contaminated by some of the more ludicrous theories and extreme ideas. There is no place for playgroups that ban Christmas, or for parents being turned down for fostering or adoption simply because they are the wrong age or have not had sufficiently acute experience of racism.

There are too many examples of that, and training is the way forward. Over 90 per cent. of social workers are now qualified, whereas, in the mid-1970s, about 34 per cent. were qualified. It is vital that the substantial sums spent on social work training are spent delivering people who have to undertake precisely the complex and difficult tasks that the hon. Lady describes.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the job of training social workers might be made easier if it were easier to discern who is and who is not properly so described? What progress is being made towards establishing a social work council?

Mrs. Bottomley

There is a debate about the establishment of a social work council. So far, it is not entirely clear whether selection to the council should be based on qualification or simply on occupation. That needs to be carefully studied before further progress can be made.