The effectiveness of Scottish vocational qualifications as a method of qualifying residential staff in children's homes
Working in children's homes is widely recognised as one of the most stressful and demanding roles within social work. Yet, unlike their fieldwork colleagues, residential staff have traditionally remained unqualified. This situation was altered in the early 1990's with the introduction of Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) as a method of qualifying residential child care workers. At the heart of SVQs is 'competence'. SVQs are 'independent' of learning and training and are designed to enable staff to be assessed as competent within the workplace. Whilst the need to have competent staff is clearly desirable, how it is achieved, or indeed measured, is far less evident. Essentially, any definition of competence will reflect a particular view of the responsibility of social work within contemporary society; a role that has been subject to considerable debate. Should social work, for example, focus on helping "individuals" and, or, does it have a responsibility to challenge the status quo, especially when structural inequalities prevail within society? In determining the nature of social work, the ability of any group to exert control over education and training has been central. Although SVQs have been widely implemented within social work, there has been minimal research regarding their impact on practice. This study examined SVQ Care: Promoting Independence (level III) within children's homes. The study focuses on the extent to which SVQs enhance practice and their function within a 'learning society'. The evidence presented in the study suggests that there are considerable deficiencies, both in terms of the SVQ format and the way in which children's homes are structured for the assessment of 'competence'. Rather than address the history of 'failure' within children's homes, SVQs have enabled the status quo to be maintained whilst creating an 'illusion' of change.