Families and children’s services: international perspectives

Dr Mary BaginskyMary Baginsky is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. (565 words)

Early in September I had the privilege of attending the International Conference on New Perspectives for Outcome-Based Evaluation and Research on Families and Children’s Services’. It was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and emerged from a collaboration between the University, the International Association for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children’s services (iaOBERfcs) and the Zancan Foundation, based in Padua, Italy. It brought together over 150 participants from 14 countries. The conference opened with children and young people performing traditional Chinese drumming and dragon dances and was followed by opening addresses and presentations. As interesting as the latter were, I was still contemplating how the girls at the back of the dragons had danced for 15 minutes while bent at an angle of 90 degrees. Continue reading

Finding unity in diversity within China’s long-term care system

csm_Maags_pic_f1915bd14eChristina Maags is a Lecturer in Chinese Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, specializing in the politics of demographic change in China. (1,278 words)

Preparing for the growing ageing population is a huge cause for celebration and yet also a key concern in many countries. Yet, in developing countries, which are experiencing a greater speed of population ageing at a time when they are lacking the financial resources and institutions to provide long-term care (LTC) services, finding policy solutions is becoming ever more urgent.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is facing these challenges while the decades of one-child policy are exacerbating these trends, as fewer and fewer younger people are left to provide care to their older relatives. Although in China, as in other East Asian countries, the cultural norm of filial piety has been strong, the stark decline in fertility translates into one younger person, mostly female, sometimes having to care for four to eight older relatives or in-laws. In 2016, 213 million, or 16.7% of the Chinese population, were over 60 years old (Cheng, 2017). Among these older people almost 150 million have long-term health conditions, and more than 40 million are living with deteriorating mental or physical health. As an editorial in The Lancet argues, China’s population ageing is ‘a ticking bomb’ (The Lancet, 2016). Continue reading

Notes from the inaugural conference of the Italian Society of Social Work Research

Gaia CetranoGaia Cetrano is a Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (1,100 words)

In May this year I was proud to take part in the first conference organized by the new Italian Society of Social Work Research (SOCISS) in Turin, Italy.

The origins of SOCISS date back to 1983 when a group of teachers of social work founded the Italian Association of Teachers of Social Work (AIDOSS). AIDOSS assiduously worked over 30 years to develop common thinking on theories of social work, as well as on the organization of university curricula, and the role of training and research. Then what happened? The Association committee reunited in 2016 and approved a new constitution outlining its new objectives, which included strengthening the dialogue between theory and practice in social work and promoting social work research in Italy and internationally. I think it is very important that the status of the association has now changed to that of a scientific society as this will hopefully help professionals, researchers and academics to acquire a stronger voice and also be in a better position to communicate and negotiate with other disciplines. Continue reading

Ageing and India

Valerie LipmanValerie Lipman is an honorary Postdoc Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, the Policy Institute at King’s. (926 words)

Just as the British TV-watching public was being captivated by the start of a three-part reality-style programme, ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’, showing eight familiar-faced senior citizens set up home in Jaipur north India, I was on my way to West Bengal in east India to take part in a gerontology conference. While the show raised some big questions about realistic retirement choices, including enjoying India’s many splendours, India is coming to terms with its own vast and growing population of older citizens. Continue reading

Assessing practice: the OSCE adapted for social work

photo of Imogen Taylor

Professor Imogen Taylor, University of Sussex, reports on the first seminar in a new series hosted by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at which she was discussant. (332 words)

Professor Marion Bogo from the University of Toronto Faculty of Social Work gave the first of the new Social Work Seminar Series at King’s College London on Tuesday 5 May on the topic of the use of the OSCE, an Objective Structured Clinical Exam, in social work.

The invited audience for this virtual seminar [these are Prof Bogo’s presentation slides] came from social work policy, education, research and practice, including key members of stakeholder groups, to hear about the use of the OSCE in North America and debate its application to social work in England.  We learned that the OSCE was initially developed in medical education in the 1970s in Scotland and has been adopted by other health related professions. In North America, it is now being piloted and researched in social work. The essence of the social work OSCE is two-fold: first, practice competence is directly observed and assessed in 15-minute simulated interviews with standardised clients/users played by actors trained to enact the role of a client scenario; second, immediately post-interview, ‘meta-competences’ are assessed  in a rating of the students’ critical reflection on their practice, how they linked theory to practice and what they planned to take forward from the experience. Continue reading

Piloting the Sababu Intervention in the wake of Ebola

Meredith NewlinMeredith Newlin, Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s, reports from Sierra Leone. Her post incorporates photographs of the Sababu Training Programme in action last month. (1,386 words)

The Ebola outbreak, which reached Sierra Leone in May 2014, quickly became a global health crisis and caused significant psychosocial distress and a disintegration of communities across West Africa. The case numbers are now dropping and Sierra Leoneans talk about the ‘aftermath’ and a shift towards a recovery phase. However, amid a resource-limited system there is still an urgent call to address the psychosocial needs of individuals and families by enhancing the skills and capacity of the existing workforce. Continue reading

New directions in child welfare: good news from the Canadian province of New Brunswick

Geraldine Poirier BaianiDr Joan RapaportGeraldine Poirier Baiani (left) and Joan Rapaport report from New Brunswick. (931 words)

These days, high profile reports of child care tragedies, rising numbers of children being taken into care and social workers struggling with high caseloads are commonplace. Stories of positive developments in children and family services are rare. However, a chance meeting whilst on holiday led to a remarkable discovery: the caseloads of child welfare social workers in the Canadian province of New Brunswick now stand at an incredible seven. Continue reading

Push and pull: doctors deciding to leave the UK for New Zealand

Stephen MartineauStephen Martineau is a researcher at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (670 words)

The Social Care Workforce Research Unit (SCWRU) last week hosted a lecture by Robin Gauld of the University of Otago, New Zealand. Professor Gauld, who is 2014 NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor, presented new research (done with Dr Simon Horsburgh) on the migration of medical professionals from the UK to New Zealand. Audience members, who included the High Commissioner of New Zealand and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s, also heard formal responses from Stephen Bach (Dept of Management at King’s) and Jill Manthorpe, Director of SCWRU. Continue reading

The challenges of medical workforce migration between the UK and New Zealand

Prof Robin GauldOn 29 October 2014 the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s hosts a seminar examining workforce migration in health and social care (places still available). Prof Jill Manthorpe, Director of the Unit, is joined by Prof Stephen Bach, Department of Management at King’s: they will be the formal respondents to a presentation given by Professor Robin Gauld who is the 2014 NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor. Here, Robin Gauld introduces his work, which focuses on health workforce migration between New Zealand and the UK. (531 words)

The week of 6 October saw significant media coverage in the UK of the 2014 State of Medical Education and Practice report by the General Medical Council. This indicated that around half of all migrating doctors are departing for the shores of Australia and New Zealand. One newspaper summed it up as: ‘…They cost us £610,000 to train – but 3,000 a year are leaving us for a life in the sun…‘. Continue reading

The opportunities and challenges in managing non-UK-qualified social workers in London social work practice

Dr Allen Bartley

Dr Allen Bartley

Are you a registered social worker who has supervised or managed a social work team and who has worked closely for at least 3 months with a non-UK-qualified social worker? If so, Dr Allen Bartley of the University of Auckland would like to hear from you. Dr Bartley, Visiting Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, is conducting a new study, Crossing Borders: Social work employers’ and managers’ perspectives of migrant social workers. In this call for participants he explains the rationale for the study and how you may be able to help. Interviews are in July.

Background to the study

Social work is a global profession practised in over 140 countries. Its spread and development have been accompanied by a drive to attain professional status and a coherent international identity through the work of a number of international organisations concerned with social work practice and education, such as the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). The global nature of the profession is reflected in the large number of international professional and academic social work publications and, in Europe, the imperatives of various EU directives and initiatives such as the Bologna Declaration have motivated social work educators and registering authorities to move towards a closer alignment of practice standards to a European norm (Walsh, Wilson & O’Connor, 2009).

That social work as a profession aspires to such a globalized outlook is premised on an assertion that the profession adheres to a central set of values and ethics that transcends national boundaries (Welbourne et al., 2007). Similarly, higher educational programmes in social work across a number of countries now stress ‘universal social work professional values’ such as self-determination, confidentiality, being non-judgemental, acceptance and the respect for diversity (Welbourne et al., 2007; Calderwood, Harper, Ball & Liang, 2009).

As a result, social workers in many countries may feel that they belong to a transnational profession. This perception is reinforced by both government immigration policies and by the global recruitment activities of social work employers. Social work agencies have been actively recruiting and marketing to migrants the benefits of living and practising in the UK, in an effort to fill gaps in its social care system (Hussein, 2014; Christie & Campbell, 2009; Simpson, 2009;). In the UK, between 2003 and 2004 there was an 82 percent increase in the number of overseas qualified social workers entering the country, with the greatest numbers coming from Australia, South Africa and the US (Welbourne et al., 2007), though changes to UK immigration policies more recently have seen a shift towards recruitment from across the European Economic Area (Hussein, 2014). This internationalization of practice has led us to conceptualise social work as inhabiting a transnational professional space (Bartley et al., 2012).

That transnational professional space is not without its challenges. However universal they may be, social work values and ethical codes are always interpreted through the lens of national or regionally-specific historical, social, political and cultural norms (Welbourne et al., 2007; Simpson, 2009). These norms are manifest in a range of challenges that confront transnational social workers: in employment practices and workplace cultures; in negotiating new sets of legislative imperatives and political tensions; and in gaining recognition and acceptance of the validity and transportability of their educational qualifications, skills and practice expertise gained overseas; and in navigating the particular forms of ethnic and cultural diversity and the attendant politics that manifest in local sites and impact on social work practice.

Taking part in the study

As part of the Research On Workforce Mobility network (ROWM) at King’s College London, the Crossing Borders team has partnered with Dr Shereen Hussein, Principal Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, to replicate in London a study currently underway in Auckland. We plan to interview social work employers and managers in London about their experiences of supervising non-UK-qualified social workers practising in the local context. We will conduct the interviews in London throughout July 2014, or if you are not in London during this time we can arrange for a video or telephone interview.

We would like to hear from you if you are:

  • a registered social worker who has supervised or managed a social work team; and
  • have worked closely for at least 3 months with a non-UK-qualified social worker; and
  • willing to talk about your experiences and reflections.

Please contact: Dr Shereen Hussein to arrange an interview on 020 7848 1669 or shereen.hussein@kcl.ac.uk.

We invite participation from professionals in both statutory, for-profit and voluntary (not for profit) organisations of varying sizes (from very small to very large), and across a range of fields of practice. This study is part of a larger comparative study involving professionals in New Zealand and Australia.

More information: on the Crossing Borders project web page and in the Information Sheet for Study Participants (pdf, 2pp).

Dr Allen Bartley is a New Zealand-trained sociologist who migrated to New Zealand from the United States in 1992. Based in the social work programme in the School of Counselling, Human Services & Social Work at the University of Auckland, he is part of a research team investigating the transnational dynamics of the social work workforce in New Zealand. Additionally Allen is involved in a project exploring the use of social media by migrants in Auckland, and its impact on their sense of identity and belonging. He is Visiting Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London (from July 2014).