Social workers to shed 'politically correct' image: In an exclusive interview, the new chief of social work training tells Rosie Waterhouse his plans

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The Independent Online
THE TRAINING of all social workers is to be radically changed because of a crisis of confidence which has left the public 'in fear, ignorance and contempt' of the profession. Courses for all social workers will be constantly reviewed to ensure that those in the field are up to date and not bombarded with 'politically correct nonsense'.

These plans were revealed by Jeffrey Greenwood, who on 1 September becomes the chairman of the organisation which oversees their training, in an exclusive interview with the Independent.

He said: 'Social workers have a long shelf-life and you can be sure we will be as critical in terms of post-qualification training to ensure the content of the courses reflects the differing demands and requirements. Politically corrent nonsense should be rooted out.'

The performance of social workers during their training is also to be more rigorously monitored and he said that procedures will be toughened so that only those of a suitable calibre qualify.

Mr Greenwood also believes the two-year training programme is inadequate compared with the three-year courses in the rest of Europe, although he said resources were insufficient to extend the course immediately.

Mr Greenwood, who is a practising solicitor and senior partner with the London law firm Nabarro Nathanson and vice-president of Jewish Care, a charity for elderly, mentally ill and handicapped people, said the public image of social workers had never been worse.

The most recent episode which led to criticism of social workers involved a mixed-race couple from Norfolk who were refused permission to adopt a mixed-race child because they were judged to be 'racially naive'.

The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, (CCETSW), of which Mr Greenwood becomes chairman, came under attack over the content of its curriculum for the Diploma in Social Work.

In a document called Paper 30, which lays down the curriculum universities and colleges must teach for the diploma, annex 5, a statement on anti-racism, drawn up by the council's black perspectives committee states: 'CCETSW believes that racism is endemic in the values, attitudes and structures of British society, including those of social services and social work education.' Mr Greenwood said: 'I don't think the cause of equal opportunities is helped by making statements which I might charitably describe as silly, but others would describe as sinister. I profoundly disagree with the statement.'

He added: 'I desperately need to seek to restore public confidence. At the moment there is clearly a crisis of public confidence in social work and social workers. There is a fear and ignorance of, and in some quarters contempt for, what social workers do. You can't open a newspaper without social workers being panned.

'The big paradox in my mind is that the social workers I know are extremely committed, qualified and intelligent people doing a terrific job; but judging from various comments, the public don't believe that. They think social workers are taking children unjustly from their parents or ignoring their responsibilities and letting parents murder their children. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

'In the public mind there is a belief that social workers are ideologically motivated, that they are primarily concerned with social engineering rather than service delivery.'

Mr Greenwood said: 'Properly trained social workers do make a very valuable contribution. If we totally discredit them that's a terrible state of affairs. I think the backlash against social workers has swung too far.

'There are a lot of decent, committed people working hard and if they are all tarred with the same brush they all feel a lack of self-esteem. So I'm anxious to improve the quality and training of social workers and also put across a more positive image of the social worker.'

(Photograph omitted)