The College of Social Work, a professional body set up three years ago by the Government, is closing due to lack of funds.
The body was set up in 2012 with £5m in government seed funding. Following the high profile case of baby Peter Connelly’s death in 2008, the Social Work Task Force recommended the establishment of the College to raise standards in the profession.
Its Chief Executive, Annie Hudson, told The Independent: “We’re shocked and saddened that this decision has been made because it’s very important for social work that there’s a strong professional college.”
One reason for the closure of the College is its failure to attract enough members. The body aimed to have 31,000 fee-paying members by 2015 but met only 50% of its target, with 16,471 members in April. This meant the organisation relied heavily on central Government funding.
Jo Cleary, Chair of the College, told Community Care: “I’m devastated with the Government’s decision about the future of The College of Social Work. This is a very dark day for social work and for the people that social workers support.
“There has never been a more critical time for social work to be a well-regarded and well-respected profession. The College is very proud of what it has achieved over its very short life.”
Guy Shennan, Chair of the British Association of Social Workers, said in a statement: "We can appreciate why many social workers are now doubting the Government’s commitment to the profession, given that its first action following the election is to close the College of Social Work. [...] There is no doubt that the children, families and adults that we work with are going to experience ever increasing hardship and the College closure is yet another blow for our social work colleagues and for service users.
“The College has done some good work for the sector and we will be contacting ministers and College members to discuss how this work can be taken forward. There are many newly qualified social workers currently undertaking the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) who will be worried about what the College closure now means for them."
A Government spokesman said: “It was always the objective of the College to become financially self-sufficient and independent from Government. The decision to stop funding the College has not been taken lightly and follows years of Government backing to establish the College and help it become an important advocate in raising the status and standards of the profession.
“Since its inception in 2009, we have supported the College with over £8m to establish it as an independent organisation. We have also invested £100m through the Innovation Programme to kick-start new approaches to support vulnerable children and families. We will continue to work closely with the Chief Social Workers and the profession to champion and improve the social work profession sector.”