Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-276)


12 MAY 2008

  Q260  Paul Holmes: What wage levels are we talking about generally for people who work in residential settings?

  David Crimmens: As soon as you start talking about upskilling part of the workforce, there is an inexorable assumption that that is connected to the material reward. The existing pay scales for many people in residential care are probably comparable across the public sector, so we may already be paying our residential workers—I might get shot down in flames for saying this in public—in a way that is comparable to the rest of the public sector. The question is: what incentives can we offer residential workers in this respect? Earlier, someone—I cannot remember whether they were from the previous panel of witnesses or the Committee—talked about a hunger for learning. Residential workers want to do a better job with their young people, and we need to give them the wherewithal to do that. Inevitably, if there is a bit of an upswirl, you can flatten the structure because there is not such a need for direct managerial control. It was common in the voluntary sector at one point in children's residential care to have just three levels. If you look at it in the local authority, it tends to be five, so you could make savings and reinvest the money in generally upskilling certain parts of the residential workforce.

  Q261  Paul Holmes: None the less, can you cite a figure? If 56% of people in the past year were qualified at NVQ3 and the rest were below that, what sort of wages would someone below NVQ3 earn?

  Jane Haywood: We must write to you about that to be sure of being accurate. Folk working in residential care would say that they are poorly paid. If you are a foster carer, often you get only an allowance and still not a wage. If you are in the early years sector, you often get the minimum wage. However, we can write to you with information on pay scales.[8]

  Q262  Paul Holmes: But you think that with regard to any enhanced pay that would be needed, the situation is a bit like that with social work practices: you can just sweep out the layers of management and that will pay for it?

  David Crimmens: One of the things that came from a recent piece of research that we did about using social pedagogues in residential child care was that the pedagogues, particularly from Denmark, were appalled by how manager-dependent many of the residential workers were. In some ways, manager dependence is based on the mystique around regulation and the idea that there is a proper and correct way to do things. The assumption is that if we increased the education available to people, they would become more capable of making judgments without necessarily having to relate directly to a manager, so they would become more autonomous in their work, both with one another and with the children and young people they were looking after. That is the reason for increasing professional education and training. The qualification per se is about the relative status of residential workers vis-a"-vis people such as social workers and teachers when it comes to decision making about individual children. That is the key issue.

  Chairman: I think that we are getting to the heart of this.

  Q263  Mr Chaytor: My first question is to Jane. There is not a single reference to social pedagogues in your submission to the Committee, so they cannot be that important, can they?

  Jane Haywood: I am trying to tread a line that involves moving us gradually along a path. From what Pat said, I think that the social pedagogue role is so strange to many people in this country that it is quite scary. When the first children's workforce strategy was published, it talked about a social pedagogue, and when the consultation came back, there was no appetite for that. In our mind, the first step is to get some clarity about a minimum Level 3 qualification and graduate-led. The second step is to look at a career framework for those working in residential and foster care. Again, that is the programme of work this year. In developing that framework, we will start to feed into it the principles of being a social pedagogue. Sometimes you just do change in a different way.

  Q264  Mr Chaytor: What is the difference between a social pedagogue and a youth worker?

  Professor Petrie: Well, "youth worker" is quite a wide term, is it not?

  Mr Chaytor: So is "social pedagogue", surely.

  Professor Petrie: Social pedagogues are much more likely to be working with groups than some youth workers, as they are developing at the moment. They will also work with the same group over a long period—day in, day out.

  Q265  Mr Chaytor: I would have thought that that was a large part of what your typical youth worker did. They are not hanging around on street corners trying to pick up individual young people, are they? They are dealing with groups of young people.

  Professor Petrie: I hear that that is happening less and less with qualified youth workers.

  Q266  Mr Chaytor: But in terms of their skills, what should a social pedagogue have that a qualified youth worker does not have?

  Professor Petrie: I think they are very similar.

  Q267  Mr Chaytor: Why do we not just call them youth workers?

  Professor Petrie: You could.

  David Crimmens: I would have to disagree there. Apart from anything else, social pedagogues are not trained just to be children's workers; they will work with people with mental health difficulties, elder people and people with dementia, both in the community and in different group care contexts—that is what embraces the whole body of social pedagogy. The other thing, which was obvious from the evidence given to the Children's Workforce Development Council, particularly by youth workers, is that youth workers saw themselves as exclusively concerned with youth in a particular social context—informal social education would be the broad term. Social pedagogues have a broader skills and theoretical base, and more of a commitment to working with children holistically. In my experience, most youth workers would not work with families. A social pedagogue would very much work with families as part of the child system and the child support network. So, there is a wider focus to the lens, although both groups have much of their thinking and many of their skills in common.

  Professor Petrie: I should not have said yes so quickly about the youth worker. I agree with Dave. However, there is the issue of support for families and the particular role played in the local community, as well as in residential care. In France, what we would think of as a children's services team could typically be made up of 10 éducateurs, or pedagogues, plus a couple of social workers, a psychologist or two and a team leader. Such people work with children in difficult circumstances and with their families. They support children over the threshold into care and beyond, helping them to keep in contact with their families. They may prevent children from being taken into care using all sorts of practical measures; indeed, that is a key word in relation to social pedagogues—they are practical people. They would support the child's attendance at school if the parents did not seem able to do that.

  Chairman: You are worrying some of us, because you had us all on board on the social pedagogue stuff, although some of us think that it would have to be rebranded with a different name—I think Graham mentioned this—just in case Douglas got hold of it. You enthused us about this pedagogy training, which is applicable to early years and residential care. I would have thought that you would have come back and said that it was also appropriate for youth leadership. You do your basic course in social pedagogy, which is appropriate for any age, to build the sort of stuff I saw in Denmark, and then you specialise. The base could be the same, could it not? The course could have a common base.

  Q268  Mr Heppell: I am getting a little worried. It seems to me that social pedagogues can effectively deal with everything—their role is wide-ranging. Then I start to wonder what defines what they do. How would I write a job description for a social pedagogue? Then I start to think that if their role is that wide and their training can be applied in almost every situation, is this not some sort of bottomless pit? I have dealt with social services in the past and I remember thinking, "This is a bottomless pit. The more we put into it, the more is going to be put into it." It seems that there is no edge to this. If you had a social pedagogue, how would you measure whether they were being successful or what they were doing? I cannot see a good job description for this work.

  Professor Petrie: People are employed within the context of a specific occupation with a job description. Their employers seek people who are qualified as pedagogues because that sort of holistic education emphasises the relationship with the young person or family as the most important tool of the work. It emphasises teamwork and that supporting the family and the young person's development is based on the relationship with the pedagogue and their reflective practice. The principles that they hold in common are what are called for in many work and occupational settings.

  Jane Haywood: We cannot import a system from another country and say that it is what we will have here. We have to think about our own setting and how all the different professions that we have would respond. The principle of a social pedagogue seems to be a good one, and their value and status are good, but the next stage of the work is to look at how it would work if it were introduced in this country. How would it fit with the different specialist roles, and is it a model to take forward? As I said before, many people in different parts of the workforce are very worried about, and frightened of, the introduction of the social pedagogue, so this has to be a step by step process. Let us understand the role, its strengths and what is involved. We need to find a way that we can go on, but we cannot think that we can just import it. That would not work.

  David Crimmens: That is an important point, because what is happening in Denmark occurs within the Danish context—within the kind of value system that families and communities have, having been educated in a seminarium. But each one of those settings, whether early years, residential care, or work with older people, will have involved a job description that defines what a social pedagogue must be capable of doing within the specific setting. My experience of social pedagogues, for example in Denmark, is that they often specialise in certain practice placements. When they come out with their social pedagogical diploma, they may have specialised in working with children in group care settings, unless somebody suggested going to a day nursery—men and women—perhaps for a couple of years, to start developing skills in practice. Then they will take on something that is seen as slightly more complex and difficult, and they will move on to children's residential care, but they will move into a job that has been defined by the organisation that employs them. In the same way, if I were running a children's home and looking for a member of staff, I would define a job and then match up the kind of skills and competencies that somebody would have to provide.

  Q269  Mr Chaytor: Are there independent social work practices in France or Denmark?

  David Crimmens: No.

  Q270  Mr Chaytor: To follow on, do you think that independent social work practices should be required to employ social pedagogues?

  David Crimmens: In France, the vast majority of social workers are employed by non-governmental organisations, while in Denmark they are directly employed by the state. You cannot directly compare how different professionals are used. As to whether the kinds of tasks that are defined by Julian le Grand's working group on social work practices could be carried out equally capably by a social pedagogue in terms of relationships with the child and family, I would say yes. Whether a social pedagogue would have the skills and experience to manage the systems would depend on the specific experiences that they had had post qualifying.

  Q271  Mr Chaytor: Can I get this right? We have two sets of pilots at present. We have the social work practice pilots—starting next year—followed by the social pedagogue pilots, for which tenders will be invited this year as well. We have other pilots, of all different shapes and sizes, that local authorities are involved in. So we have a range of different pilots, including in particular the social pedagogue and non-social pedagogue pilots. Regardless of what Professor Le Grand said on his way out, the assumption seems to be that the social work practice pilots will be extended almost as soon as they have completed their two years—there will be no time for a separate evaluation period. Where does that leave the social pedagogues?

  David Crimmens: The idea of a pilot is to enable us as a society to test something out, without necessarily making a long-term commitment until we have the evidence for what works. That would seem to be what defines the pilot bit. The tenders for the social pedagogue pilots close today. Hopefully, those pilots will be up and running later this year and, hopefully, the information on their implementation will start to come out into—if you like—the professional community and political arena within a reasonable time. I agree with the Chair that children cannot wait for these things to be seen as successful or not. Last year, we carried out a very small pilot looking at the use of social pedagogues in a residential care context—a report is available, which we can forward to the Committee, if you would find it interesting. It was actually evaluated, so there is already some evidence about the likely and potential difficulties of employing social pedagogues in an English setting.

  Q272  Chairman: It would be most useful to receive that. We must bear in mind, of course, that the Minister will be appearing here before this inquiry is finished. We will ask him whether there will be time to assimilate these pilots before they are rolled out. In a sense, I thought that there was more equivocation in the previous professor's response.

  Professor Petrie: I would like to throw another piece of information into the pot, which is that in the last couple of years, a recruitment agency in this country, called Jacaranda, has placed 200 German social workers and/or pedagogues. So pedagogues are currently employed in the English social services system and in some residential care. I have personally interviewed staff in homes to which pedagogues have been sent as part of their training placements. They have not been afraid of or worried about them, but have welcomed their input in fact.

  Q273  Mr Chaytor: What are they called in German?

  Professor Petrie: I have no German. I speak Dutch, but not German—it is something like sozialpedagog, I think.

  Q274  Mr Chaytor: In practical, day to day terms, what would you expect to see in a residential setting, if social pedagogues were employed in the UK on the same scale as they are in France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands? What is the tangible difference—happier children, higher levels of educational attainment, or what?

  Professor Petrie: That is what we found in one of our studies. I do not know about attainment, because it is very difficult to compare that across countries, but certainly we found higher attendance at school. Pedagogues who we interviewed had total confidence in their authority to ensure that children went to school, whereas the care workers who we interviewed in this country said, "Well, it is very difficult to get them to school."

  Q275  Mr Stuart: I have a quick question on social work practices—I saw a grimace from David, so I assume that he is a bit anti. Are they more likely to allow innovation and thus enable a more rapid roll-out of pedagogy than in monolithic local authority social services departments?

  David Crimmens: One of the issues is that when we start talking about the social pedagogue working in English contexts, we are talking about bringing ideas into the workforce as part of people's development so that they approach their task in a pedagogical way. That relates to something that has been missing from residential care for a long time and was certainly, if we go back in history, part of the traditions of English residential care: a cohesive philosophy and understanding of what we are trying to do when we look after other people's children in a residential context. What are we trying to achieve? Social pedagogy would provide that kind of unifying framework, irrespective of whether the home was managed by a local authority, a voluntary sector organisation or a private organisation. The question about social work practices is difficult. Initially it seemed an attractive idea to me because it gave children in state care someone who was uniquely theirs. It addressed all, or many, of the issues that arose from the consultation on Care Matters. The difficulty is that there was also quite a lot of exploration of the role of the corporate parent in Care Matters. There is at least a tension between the idea of the corporate parenting responsibility resting with a local authority and the idea that you have these independents operating outside that structure.

  Mr Stuart: Is the idea not to get the tension? When someone is the corporate parent and the supplier of the corporate parent team, to date the record is not particularly good and outcomes are pretty poor. International comparisons are poor. At least if there are a number of these practices, poor practice can be challenged and good practice can be encouraged. Going back to an ancient concept—the purchaser/provider split—perhaps you are more likely to get improved accountability, far from seeing it reduced.

  Q276  Paul Holmes: I want to return to something that Pat said. You talked in glowing terms about continental success, for example, in relation to the youth worker pedagogue feeling confident about getting the child to school. But one of the first things we were told at the start of this inquiry was that you cannot make comparisons like that because relatively speaking we take so few children into care. Therefore, they are inevitably the more difficult children who come from more disturbed backgrounds. Whereas, in European countries they take many more children into care so they are dealing with a more amenable client group in a sense. Can you really make that comparison?

  Professor Petrie: That is a good point. In our work, we looked at that by using regression statistics—comparing children who were taken into care at a more severe level with those who were not. We found that in terms of outcomes, staff characteristics made the difference in relation to things such as juvenile offences and attendance in education. We thought that it was about how well qualified the staff were. Pedagogy is education in its broadest sense so the residential home is a place where care and education in the broadest sense meet. It is not just a place where children are safeguarded and taken for protection. That is an important concept that pedagogy really has got a hold on and we would do well to import it.

  Chairman: I am afraid we have come to the end of our time. Can I just say that it seems a wonderful goal to have appropriately trained and qualified people in early years and residential settings, and youth workers as classroom assistants. It seems that you are constructing a rod for your own back by calling it pedagogue and pedagogy. You have not convinced John because since he heard the word pedagogy—

  Mr Heppell: I am convinced that something is wrong with the role of social workers. That was what I was saying. I was wondering whether that is because over time the role has been directed at such a narrow area and has become less effective than in the past.

  Chairman: You have created a lot of interest in the Committee and we thank you. As I said to the last group of witnesses, which included Jane, could you stay in touch with the Committee. We want to write a good report, and we need your help.

8   See Ev 137 Back

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