National Institute for Social Work

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The National Institute for Social Work Training was set up in 1961, following proposals put forward in the 1959 Eileen Younghusband report for an independent staff college for social work.[1] Its initial funding was assured for ten years by the Nuffield Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. It was later renamed the National Institute for Social Work (NISW), with a governing body of some twenty-five members.

Its staff worked throughout the United Kingdom, supporting users and carers, practitioners, managers and policy makers in their work. NISW also attracted students from other countries.[2]

NISW’s later funding came as a grant from the Department of Health and Social Security. This was supplemented by fees from courses and consultancies. Special projects e.g. research, were also funded by other government departments, as well by charitable trusts.

NISW was located in Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place, London. NISW North opened in 1986 with an office in Leeds.

When the National Institute for Social Work closed in 2003, its archives were deposited at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. Its Library collection moved to the Social Care Institute for Excellence, as did some staff from the Institute’s Research Unit. Other research staff working on the social services workforce project were transferred to Kings College, London University.[3].

Mary Ward House, London-6069026235



NISW offered a one-year course and a three months course, aimed at social work practitioners and managers in both the statutory and voluntary sectors. These covered all aspects of social work, including casework, group work, community development, residential and community care, as well as management and staff development. NISW staff also provided a consultancy service, and an extensive programme of residental short courses throughout the UK. By the late 1970s, they had also begun to work with colleague organisations in other European countries.


NISW’s Research Unit[4] was established in 1963 by Tilda Goldberg,[5] who designed the first randomised controlled trials in British social work. The Unit's numerous studies were each designed to answer the question: ‘What works, and why?’ These studies included evaluations of social work in general practice, the effectiveness of task-centred casework, the role of social work area offices and clients’ attitudes to social work. Thereafter, during the 1980s, the Unit carried out studies of the carers for the confused elderly, the reasons for admission into old people’s homes and the varying roles played by relatives, friends, neighbours and services in supporting frail elderly people living alone. During the 1990s, the Unit’s research included studies of respite services for those caring for someone with dementia, hospital discharge of elderly people, child care and the social services workforce.

From its inception, the Unit’s staff also took part in the Institute’s teaching programme, and published widely.

Policy Influence[edit]

NISW hosted and/or provided members for a number of important committees and their reports. These included:


Southwark Community Project (1968-1973)[11]

Race Equality Unit (1987-1995)[12]

The Library[edit]

By the end of the 1990s, NISW’s Library comprised some 30,000 books and 300 journal titles. [13] It had also developed an online information service, as well as an information and lending service for Social Services Departments. The Library attracted social workers, students and scholars, but it was also a valuable resource to staff from government departments, as well those in other statutory bodies and voluntary agencies who had their headquarters in or near central London.

The Institute’s series, the National Institute Social Services Library, was run in partnership with George Allen and Unwin, who published over fifty books in the series on all aspects of social work practice and training. NISW also published its own in-house series, the National Institute for Social Work Papers, designed as accessible guides to various elements of social work practice.

Together with its Library, the Institute’s gardens, meeting rooms and Common Room provided a congenial setting for minds to meet, from all walks of social work life. NISW's policy of renting out office space to kindred organisations brought in not just valuable income but also fellow professionals with new or different ideas to share.

Visiting Professors[edit]

All of NISW’s activities were strengthened by its ability to attract a steady stream of visiting professors, all but two of whom came from American universities:

Ken Daniels (New Zealand), Eileen Gambrill, Neil Gilbert, Charles Grosser, Arnold Gurin, Ken Heap (Norway), Ralph Kramer, Frank Maple,

Anne Minahan, Mel Moguloff, Robert Perlman, Allen Pincus, Jack Rothman, Harry Specht, Roland Warren, James Whittaker.


Chairs: Frederic Seebohm, Peter Barclay[14] Trevor Owen[15] William Utting[16] Denise Platt, John Ransford

Principals: Robin Huws Jones [17] David Jones [18] Mary Sugden [19] Daphne Statham [20]

Notes and References[edit]

  1. ^ Ministry of Health Working Party on Social Workers in the Health and Welfare Services. Chaired by Eileen Younghusband
  2. ^ these included Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Nigeria, Norway, Singapore, South Africa and Zimbabwe
  3. ^ the new group at Kings was named the Social Care Workforce Research Unit (SCWRU). For further information On SCWRU, see:
  4. ^ Directors of Research: Tilda Goldberg 1963-1977, Ian Sinclair 1977 – 1989, Jan Pahl 1990 – 1995, Mike Fisher 1996 – 2002
  5. ^ and also
  6. ^ Report of the Committee on Local Authority and Allied Personal Social Services, 1968. Chaired by Frederic Seebohm
  7. ^ report published by NCSS in 1969. Chaired by Geraldine Aves
  8. ^ published as A Positive Choice. Report of the Independent Review of Residential Care, HMSO, 1988. Chaired by Gillian Wagner
  9. ^ published as The Barclay Report: Social Workers, Their Role and Tasks 1982, NISW. Chaired by Peter Barclay
  10. ^ published as (1) Community Work and Social Change 1968 and (2) Current Issues in Community Work 1973.
  11. ^ see Organising for Social Change, D.N. Thomas, Allen and Unwin, 1976
  12. ^ see
  13. ^ see
  14. ^
  15. ^ managing directorRemploy
  16. ^ formerly Chief Inspector of Social Services,
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ formerly Director of Social Services, Hackney
  20. ^ social work educator, consultant and author

External links[edit]