Social work membership: the guardians at the gate

On October 4th I published the following post from Louise Whitfield

Hi Vittorio . I am impressed with your views on self regulation, connection and alliance. I previously was a member of the AASW for five years. My qualifications are Bachelor of Social Science Welfare Studies and Masters of Child and Adolescent Welfare through the Social Work Department of Charles Sturt University.I have also many courses and other certificates held. I applied to become a member of the AASW five years ago furnishing copies of my degrees and courses and was accepted as a member. I thoroughly enjoyed my membership with the AASW and felt that it strengthened my professional ties and kept me up to date with the latest research and practice. Last year I applied for Mental Health Practitioner status with the AASW and again furnished all my documents. I have been working as a Youth Mental Health Worker and Therapist for Central Coast Area Health for the last 6 years and have had over 20 year experience in the Welfare Arena.I was contacted by the AASW to be advised that my Mental Health Practitioner status was pending thus I conclude that I would have been accepted. They however advised that after perusing my Documents this time I should have never been accepted into the AASW in the first place 5 years ago. They advised me that they would discuss the matter at the next board meeting. The AASW representative Kim Daley rang me on 1/10/2104 and advised that I am not eligible to be a member of the AASW at all. This is very dissapointing as I like you feel that persons should be assessed by their individual merit. Some of the Degrees accepted for AASW are Bachelor of Social Science and I was accepted into the Social Work Masters Course by Charles Sturt. The AASW, I believe are taking a very narrow and non inclusive view of my case. I am sorry that I am not able to vote for you as my membership was terminated on 1/10/2104. I attend Mental Health Social Work meetings at my workplace, (They know of my Degrees and have accepted me into their meetings).I have also completed many Social Work Courses etc and am a very experienced clinician who is well respected and sought after within my Community , I do feel that the AASW are invalidating of my experience and expertise which is totally against the principles of Social Work. I do hope that you are elected and can change this narrow view of entry point into the AASW. Good Luck

I replied on the same day

Dear Louise
I am ashamed of the way that you have been treated.
If you were an overseas applicant, I doubt that you would have any problems. If you were a New Zealander, a three year degree would do!

Ten days later (after it was clear that I had lost the election!) I received a complaint from the AASW CEO about these posts- published below in full.

Dear Vittorio

It has been brought to my attention that your blog refers to a member situation that was recently  considered by the Board in a confidential manner.  The initial post and your response contain factually incorrect information, and in the process names a AASW staff member.

 The information in the initial post is inaccurate as the individual does not hold a social work qualification which means she is not eligible for membership.  Your response about applying through the IQA process is also inaccurate as without recognised social work qualifications in the country of origin an applicant would not receive an eligible assessment.  The information about our IQA standards and processes are publicly available on our website.

 I trust you will rectify the information on your blog in a timely manner to assure your readers that the AASW standards and processes are rigorous and applied by our staff in a professional manner to ensure  integrity in our processes for members and the public.

 I look forward to a prompt redress of this inaccurate and misleading information.

It seems to me the best redress is simply to publish the complaint and my response. After reading this post you can all judge for yourselves what is misleading and what is inaccurate. The AASW complaint simply made me sad for us all. But as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

It is clear to me from what Louise has written that she applied for membership in good faith. The AASW then mistakenly gave her membership. Is the AASW inferring the application was not in good faith?

What has naming the staff member got to do with anything? The names of all senior staff are available on the website. The staff member in question is an outstanding professional servant of the AASW. She was simply executing the will of the Board. It is the discretion of the Board that is the issue here.

The comment about the IQA is gobsmacking. How can it be inferred that I was suggesting Louise apply through the IQA? -when clearly she cannot. I was simply pointing out our double standard. In comparison we are very lenient with overseas qualifications. I reiterate – if Louise had done the equivalent work and study overseas it is highly probable she would be eligible for membership.

But allow me to reflect for a moment on the situation in Australia.

As I write this, there are around 8,000 students enrolled in BSW’s across the country and further 3,000 enrolled in qualifying MSW’s.

I have no idea if the Board took a careful look at Louise’s Masters degree and compared it to a standard qualifying MSW. I wonder how much of a gap there was between the two, and what it might take to make up that gap? Was this advice and a helping hand offered?

In our professional lives we build on strengths and combat the rigid proceeduralism that slams doors in people’s faces.

I hope the Board took a social work view in helping someone to belong to a profession that they love.

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