The General Social Care Council is seeking tougher powers of regulation over employers amid fears that senior managers are being “let off the hook” over misconduct.
The GSCC wants to upgrade its code of practice for social care employers to a statutory footing, to provide “greater protection for the workforce and service users”.
Unison is also lobbying Parliament for the change to create a level playing field across the sector.
The GSCC has two codes of practice: one for social workers and one for their employers, but only frontline practitioners can be punished for breaching it.
Unison’s national officer for social care, Helga Pile, said an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill, which is going through Parliament, allowing the GSCC to enforce the employers’ code of practice would “create a level playing field”.
The current system fails to monitor how conditions created by managers enable front-line staff to do their jobs, according to the British Association of Social Workers.
Chief executive Ian Johnston said: “Social workers’ ability to fulfil their side of the bargain is dependent on the conditions of employment, and the amount of support they get from employers.”
The calls for the GSCC’s powers to be strengthened were backed by Michael Preston-Shoot, professor of social work at the University of Bedfordshire. He said the employers’ code was “full of good intentions” but remained “mere rhetoric because of the lack of mechanisms to hold employers accountable”.
Preston-Shoot argued: “Some employers are being let off the hook.”
Body of evidence
The GSCC itself is willing to build up “a body of evidence about allegations of employers’ misconduct”, according to Heather Wing, director of regulation.
“We could then start conversations with associations which have influence over them, such as the Association of Directors of Adult Services and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, and make recommendations,” she said.
In response, ADASS and ADCS issued a joint statement highlighting “the substantial number of inspections” from various inspectorates which keep “local authorities and chief officers on their toes”. Although the associations rejected calls to make the employers’ code of practice mandatory, they indicated a willingness to encourage members to strengthen their voluntary commitment to it.
The Department of Health said the the forthcoming Care Quality Commission would include a revamped registration system for health and social care providers, which may require employers to check that “workers are safe and competent to give people the care and treatment they need”.
“Given the existing powers of the CSCI and the proposed powers of the CQC we would be concerned that giving additional powers to the GSCC could lead to duplication,” a spokesperson said.
Action against social workers:
●37 conduct hearings, resulting in 17 admonishments,
3 suspensions, 17 struck off.
Action against social care employers:
●One employer referred to the CSCI.