Editorial Comment: England expects

The General Social Care Council took important steps this week towards mapping out the future of the profession in England by releasing two reports on the roles and tasks of social workers. These are in response to last year’s review of the social care workforce, Options for Excellence, which called for further examination of social work.

A series of events will follow at which the evolution of the profession will be debated, and a full public consultation on the review is anticipated in March.It is the first major analysis of the field since the Barclay report in 1982. Twenty-five years have elapsed, but its finding that “there is confusion about the direction in which they [social workers] are going and unease about what they should be doing and the way in which they are organised and deployed”, still has resonance.

This week’s reports suggest that while social workers continue to offer a powerful combination of skills and knowledge, they need to respond to the changing environment within which they work. They ask some big questions: how are we going to increase innovation, improve partnership working, make services more accessible to service users and strengthen social work’s profile?

“Findings” will not be enough – the profession needs outcomes that influence practice, as has happened in Scotland and Wales. The government bodies steering the English process should take note – champions for change and an engaged profession are going to be vital for it to be a success.


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