A series of questions submitted by readers of
Community Care magazine and this website were put to Lynne
Berry, the new chief executive of the General Social Care
We split the questions into several different
categories, starting with registration, and Lynne’s responses
appear at the end of each section.
Question Will consideration be given to
registering social workers with specific specialisms other than
ASWs? For example, at the moment people can work as social workers
with deaf people if they are qualified only as social workers. They
are not necessarily required to have sign language competency or
knowledge of deaf culture and issues. Consequently the training
facilities for social workers to acquire sign language competency
and study. Deaf issues are underdeveloped and often unsupported by
Q. I understand the GSCC will have the power to
register and therefore de-register social care professionals. Do
these powers also apply to malpractising senior managers in social
care? We are noticeably short of deterrent sanctions against
managers who suppress or dispose of staff raising genuine concerns
on behalf of vulnerable clients. Post-Waterhouse, Freedom to Care
continues to get streams of requests for support from the childcare
worker victims of such intimidatory behaviour, as well as from
other social care backgrounds. Will GSCC play a role in the
enforcement of ethical behaviour and the maintenance of procedures
with these senior staff?
Chris Clode, Freedom to Care
Q. Welcome to the GSCC. I have been supporting
the idea of this council for many years, and am delighted that it
is at last coming into being. I have one big concern about the
future operation of the council, and four specific questions for
I have great reservations about the prospect of a registration
authority attempting to register all the huge number of unqualified
workers who work in the social care field, (as opposed to qualified
social workers.) In my experience, within the workforce which
staffs, for example, residential care homes, or day centres, partly
because they are so appallingly badly paid and undervalued, there
is an extremely quick turnover. No sooner is one trained (e.g. NVQ
level 2 or 3) than she is off to more lucrative employment, to be
replaced by another low status worker. To register a person who has
had no training is a fairly nonsensical activity, I think, and the
task of achieving an adequately trained and registered workforce an
impossible goal until pay, status, and educational issues are
Question 1: With the demise of CCETSW, will the GSCC become the
awarding body for the
DipSW, the Practice Teaching Award etc.? If not, who will?
Question 2: As you know, CCETSW had developed very thorough
processes for the accreditation of individual practice teachers of
Dip.Social Work students, and the accreditation of social work
agencies providing practice placements for them. Will these
procedures be continued, and if so how? [question dealt with below
under ‘AWARDING BODY’ section]
Question 3: What evidence will the GSCC require for social
workers to demonstrate they have attended to their continuing
professional development in order to maintain their registration
over the years?
Training co-ordinator, children’s services.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON REGISTRATION
These are the questions that many people are going to ask –
understandably. We start work on October 1 and our priority will be
to begin drafting the framework we will consult on for the
register, but this is going to be a rigorous and lengthy process.
Therefore it’s going to be some time before I can give all the
answers that you are seeking reassurances about.
On the positive side, professionals can take comfort from the
fact that nothing is set in stone, so we still have time to take on
board many of the issues you raise. It’s important that we get on
with establishing the register and that we get it right by
consulting widely. If we get it right, social care workers see it
as something that is going to enhance and protect their
professional standing rather than something to be fearful of. We
have a great deal of consultation to do – but through the auspices
of Community Care and others, we will be keeping you
up-dated on developments.
It is quite clear however that some issues are outside our remit
– and included within this would be the management issues
identified by Chris Clode. This is a human resources issue for
employers to deal with. We will be concerned with professional
standards – complaints about practice, not about access, or levels
or performance of services.
On the issue of registering the social care workforce, I think
Judith Niechcial rightly identifies some very valid points about
staff turnover. However, we’re just one of a number of government
initiatives to improve the status of the social care profession.
Some things will be happening in tandem. As the register develops,
and it will take several years, the workforce strategy developed by
TOPSS will start to take effect and the aim of that is to encourage
a better qualified social care workforce.
Hopefully we will be looking at a rather different landscape by
the time we have turned our attention to the social care workforce.
The register, and the professional status it confers, will in
itself be a reason both to get a qualification and remain in the
ANSWERS TO QUESTION ON THE AWARDING BODY
[in relation to Judith’s second question]: The GSCC will become
the new awarding body for all of CCETSW awards for the foreseeable
future. There are some very significant developments in terms of
new awards – the recently-launched childcare award, which has
proved very popular, and the new regulation of care services award
for inspectors of social and health care settings which will take
into account previous experience and knowledge. This is due to
become available in September 2002.
Q. I am one of 4 independent chairs working for
Shropshire council. On our behalf it would be helpful if you could
tell me if chairs will be registered in the future, given we are
all social work trained, and what post qualifying training would we
be required to undertake? (Additional information: we are employed
by social services department to chair child protection conferences
and looked after children’s statutory reviews. From the October 1
we will also be reviewing pathways plans for young people who are
subject to the Leaving Care Act.)
As I explained we are all s/w trained, as this is a requirement
of the post. You are also expected to have advanced knowledge and
skills in child protection and looked after children legislation,
most chairs progress from a management background, although I did
not. I am interested to know if our s/w qualification to practice
will still be valid without a PQ award as is required by s/w’s for
registration, because I and others may wish to return to practice
in the future.
Most LA’s have independent chairs and I wonder what they think
I anticipate that all trained social workers will be registered
and all existing qualifications will be recognised. For example, my
own CQSW will mean that I could be registered, but if I wanted to
return to practice I would expect to update my skills, perhaps with
a post-qualifying award. I think this is extremely sensible – I
wouldn’t expect to be able to practise without updating training to
take into account the latest legislative changes and best
Q. We have met previously, many moons ago!
Congratulations on your appointment.
I am asking these questions as BASW UK Chair.
We are being asked if any consideration has yet been given to
the position of fully self-employed independent social workers with
regard to registration and subsequently to CPD and
complaints/disciplinary investigation. From what we hear a lot of
emphasis is being placed upon the role of the employer and
obviously this does not apply to self-employed social workers who
now work in a wide variety of settings both inside and outside the
Also, it is rumoured that implementation of registration may be
postponed and not take place for one to two years. Is there any
foundation to these rumours and if so what are the likely
Gail C. Tucker,
Chair, British Association of Social
Thank you for your good wishes! Can I answer the second bit
first? The minister has been quite clear that the process needs to
begin by 2003. That means that substantial progress must have been
made by then on setting up a register. If you’ve ever had
experience of major IT projects then you’ll appreciate that even
this timescale will be tight. We’ve got to make sure the systems
are secure, that data is protected, that it is robust enough to
handle large amounts of data and flexible enough to meet our
changing needs. We will need to co-ordinate with Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales and the scale of the system may require us to
look into a major European-wide tendering exercise.
On your first question, I will have to start a list of all the
‘special cases’ like this and we will have to work out sensible
ways of including everyone.
Child care award
Q. Given the feedback from the pilot post
qualifying award in child care (which was, incidentally, never
fully evaluated by the doh) that local authority social workers
have great difficulty carving out study time from their large
workloads, how does the council see the profession being able to
reach the ambitious doh targets for numbers of child-care social
workers to be trained? Will these targets be made more
Training co-ordinator, children’s services
Q. What will happen to social workers who have
not completed the child care award by the deadline which I believe
Will they be deregistered and therefore unable to practice?
Does the need to have the PQ child care award apply to all
social workers in children and families? In particular will it
apply to social workers in voluntary adoption agencies?
Q. I have the advanced award in social work
currently and am in a management position. I am wondering if I
decide to go back to direct practice in future, whether this will
be acceptable for registration as I would not wish to undertake
child care award at this stage.
ANSWERS TO CHILDCARE QUESTIONS
The training targets are set by the department of health – the
GSCC’s role will be similar to CCETSW’s in that it will continue to
offer and support the childcare award, which has been extremely
well-received. We support initiatives which move us towards a
better qualified workforce and we are sure that professionals
working in the field will see the value of setting timescales and
targets that will help to achieve this.
Q. I would like to know whether they think the
onset of a 3 year qualification in social work will exclude mature
students from applying due to the costs and commitment involved.
Especially as mature students are more likely to have relevant life
experience to equip them to the social work role.
The GSCC is actively supporting the process of creating the new
degree. We believe that the degree will enhance the status of the
profession and is long-overdue. I do believe that ultimately that
this measure, combined with all the other initiatives (such as the
establishment of the GSCC) will help make the profession more
attractive and put it on a more equal footing with other
professions such as health. Jo is right. We’ve got concerns
ourselves about the way loans have deterred undergraduate students
of all ages, and the way nurses and teachers have been given
financial incentives to study but not, so far, social workers.
Q. What is the latest re:
* Registration NVQ Level for Assistant Social Workers. 3 or
* Registration in the future for holders of new degree (DipSW).
On graduation or after a year once they have PQ Part1?
We want to formulate the register so that it recognises the full
range of appropriate qualifications. For the moment, don’t panic,
don’t do anything, we will be working up the scheme, consulting
fully and publicising it once it’s ready. But we’ve got a lot of
work to do first as I’ve said earlier. The new degree will
supercede the DipSW. Newly-qualified social workers will be amongst
the easiest groups to register because we know their qualifications
and experience already.
Q. I am interested in how the national council
will ensure that local inspection teams will a) apply the new
standards in a realistic way, given the timescales involved and b)
work with local authorities to ensure that local markets are not
threatened adversely. There is some concern about losing providers
in a fragile market….
Understandably, we’ve come across some confusion between us and
the National Care Standards Commission, but this is a question for
them! The commission will employ all the inspectors currently
working for local authorities and health authorities. It will
continue and extend the process of inspecting social and health
care. We don’t have any sway over inspectors locally, or the
factors that affect local markets. Store this question up and ask
Ron Kerr next April!
Code of conduct
Q. How will GSCC’s Code of Conduct link in with
BASW’s Code of Ethics for Social Workers?
Q. How strong will the sanctions be for
professional misconduct, and what would be the implications of
disciplinary action. eg could social workers be struck off the
register in a manner equivalent to doctors. Would there be an
expectation that employers inform the council in the event of
disciplinary action having been taken?
Q. I am disappointed that the undertaking for
consultation in July 2001 about the codes of practice/conduct
(practitioners, managers and employers) was not kept. In the course
of a recent long telephone discussion with a representative at doh
however, I was told the decision had been taken to defer
consultation until the councils members had themselves had the
opportunity to develop the codes as drafts once the councils were
operational and that those drafts would then be put out for
Can you please confirm this and give an undertaking that this
will be as soon as practicable with an adequate timescale for
proper consultation. Are you also able to give an undertaking that
the codes will be compatible with international professional social
work ethics and values?
Q. Will users of services play any role in the
new council, if so what role?
(question on behalf of the Citizens as Trainers group based at
Salford University and the young people in education group, YIPPEE,
based at Barnardo’s, Moss Side in Manchester.
ANSWERS TO CODE OF CONDUCT QUESTIONS
In respect of the consultation on the code of conduct, we hope
to be able to begin this in the next few months and of course we
will ensure that we consult widely and with sensible timescales.
Best practice in consultation with all our stakeholders will be a
key aim for the organisation.
On Len Weir’s question: The GSCC has the legal power to strike
registrants off – it will be the ultimate sanction. The criteria
for this really hasn’t been established yet. Models do exist in
some of the excellent preparatory work done in the 80s and 90s and
more recently by the implementation team – which was led by our
interim chair, Baroness Jill Pitkeathley – and we’ll be drawing on
those documents when we draw up the processes.
ANSWER TO QUESTION ON SERVICE USERS
The department of health has ensured that, of the 15 members of
the council, the majority are lay members. Some are service users,
others are carers, some are both. All of the members have
long-experience of the social care field and will bring that rich
knowledge to bear on the strategic direction of the council. We
will also be going out and seeking the views of service users on
all our key projects through consultation.
Recruitment and retention
Q. One of the GSCC’s aims is to raise standards
amongst social care staff. Will it also campaign for a
corresponding improvement in terms and conditions for those staff,
given the major recruitment and retention problems faced by many
Health Team Senior Social Worker
Westway Aid and Information Centre
Ladbroke Grove, London
Q. I would like to here Lynne’s views on the
staffing crisis currently facing social work. As a brief example of
how our profession is seen at present I asked a number of staff if
they would recommend to their own children to take up the
profession. Not too surprisingly a large number stated they
would not. My own view is that until such times as social work
is placed on the government’s political agenda, such as is the case
with education, we shall continue to see a decline in people
wishing to join the profession.
ANSWERS ON RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Recruitment and retention is a very serious issue facing the
profession and the GSCC will throw its weight behind any
initiatives aimed at easing this. Pay and conditions are connected
to recruitment and retention but so are a myriad of other factors,
and here Ricky Goodwin is spot on when he identifies the political
agenda as a factor. It’s a message I am going to be repeating
endlessly. When a minister speaks about teachers and nurses as
‘keyworkers’ we need them to be saying, teachers, nurses and social
care workers. I would like to see social work and social care as
important in the next election as health and education were in this
Q. How come the GSCC website is never updated?
The information given out is very poor indeed. The ‘latest’ news is
from 2 months ago! Hardly helpful in this period when everything is
changing and we (managers in residential care and everyone else)
need to keep up to date and have as much advance warning as
possible in order to be ready for April 2002.
Answer: Getting our own website up and running
is one of our top priorities and I want to make it a key vehicle
for communicating with all our stakeholders. I see online
communication as a very important way of talking and listening to
people and keeping people informed. For example, we will make sure
that the wealth of material on the CCETSW website will transfer to
the new GSCC website. I promise you we will get this website up and
running as soon as possible – hopefully within the next six months.
Meanwhile, for the past year and to tide us over, the department of
health set up an excellent implementation website which they still