Sunday, March 30, 2014

Similarities and Differences between Social Work in the United States and the United Kingdom: Interview with David Niven

[Episode 85] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast explores the similarities and differences between social work in the United States and the United Kingdom. I spoke with British social worker and podcaster, David Niven. David is the former National Chair of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). He has over 30 years national and international experience in the field of social welfare and is recognized as an independent expert on matters of child protection and parenting. He is the founder and host of the Social World Podcast (

There are many similarities between social work in the USA and the UK, but there are a couple of important differences. One of the biggest differences is that in the UK child and family social workers serve as child protection workers, whereas in the USA child protection and social work are separate professions.

Note: David interviewed me in November 2013 about cyberbullying and youth suicide for his podcast series. You can hear that episode here:

Download MP3 [24:34]


The Social World Podcast:
David Niven Associates:
British Association of Social Workers (BASW):
David Niven interviews Jonathan Singer:

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Singer, J. B. (Producer). (2014, March 30). #85 - Similarities and differences between social work in the United States and the United Kingdom: Interview with David Niven [Audio Podcast]. Social Work Podcast. Retrieved from

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Although a very informative discussion, there are a couple of points, made by David Niven, that deserve clarification:
David alludes to a two year gap between high school and university (school or college in the states). There are no nationally inferred barrier to an 18-year old enrolling on a 3-yr BA/BSc social work degree course. Some universities might instigate a ‘block’ but it is not policy. A social work student can start their academic training at 18-years old, straight after gaining their A levels (High school diploma). Provided they pass their modules and practice placements (200 days working in social work situations) the student can graduate at 21-years old and gain employment as a Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW). The NQSW will then undergo a years of assessed practice, in their professional setting and gain qualified social worker status.
David also suggests that there are not therapeutic social workers in the UK, which ignores the specialist social workers working in Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). These specialists deliver TFCBT and other models of therapeutic support to Tier 4 service users with identified mental disorders. Admittedly, there are not vast numbers of these specialists and they share their role with Community Psychiatric Nurses, but to ignore them devalues the speciality of their social work practice.
Furthermore, while it is true that very few counsellors and psychotherapists in the UK have social work qualifications, David appears to be oblivious to the growing number of school social workers delivering therapeutic support to children and young people in our schools, academies and colleges. School social work is by no means a developed as our American, Continental and Antipodean colleagues but it is a growing specialism. Many of my colleagues are qualified counsellors/psychotherapists.

Hopefully, this adds a little more UK social work context to David’s and Jonathan’s debate.

(Please excuse my over liberal use of 'l's, it's just how we spell in this country ;-) )