Government plans to boost training and development for children’s social workers must be extended to the adults’ workforce, sector leaders have said.
Last week, the Department for Children, Schools and Families launched a children’s workforce strategy, with a £73m support package for social workers from 2008-11, most of which had already been announced, including pilots to provide more support and protected caseloads for newly-qualified social workers.
While sector leaders welcomed the plans, they called for similar investment for adult care practitioners in the Department of Health’s forthcoming workforce strategy.
Andrea Rowe, chief executive of Skills for Care, warned adult practitioners could “move over to the children’s side if they thought they were getting a better deal”.
She predicted that the adults’ strategy, expected later this year, would not be “as radical” as the children’s strategy and would have less funding.
“On the adult side there is a commitment to a much wider workforce, not just social workers. Home care workers will need a lot of focus because of the personalisation agenda, for example,” she explained. But Rowe said she believed that both the DH and the DCSF wanted to ensure there was a “generic core” to workforce planning.
Mike Wardle, chief executive of the General Social Care Council, said the adults’ workforce strategy was still “some while away”.
Wardle said it would be important to pilot a professional development framework for all adults’ social workers, as this currently varied according to specialist roles. “Some adults’ social workers, such as those in mental health specialist roles, get continuing professional development, but not in other areas like older people and learning disabilities,” he said.
Bernard Walker, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services workforce development network, said he hoped the DCSF plan would “help raise the quality of social work across the board”.
Walker added: “People don’t want initiatives in children’s services that are not mirrored in adults’ services. Social workers are a united occupational group.”
A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed the DH and DCSF were “working closely” on the development of adults’ and children’s social care workforce plans. He said an interim statement on the adults’ strategy would be published next month, and the full strategy launched in October. He added that DH was providing funding of £150m for adult social care workforce development in 2008-9.
“Most of this funding will continue to support existing activity such as the generic social work degree which includes social work student bursaries and practice placements,” he said.
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