The outgoing chair of the General Social Care Council has criticised the government for lengthy delays in extending professional registration to England’s 250,000 home care workers.
In a parting shot before retiring, Rodney Brooke labelled the Department of Health’s failure to roll out the project, which ministers originally promised to implement by the end of 2007, “a big disappointment”.
Speaking to Community Care as he prepared to hand over the reins to his successor Rosie Varley, Brooke also called for the GSCC to be given overall responsibility for the social work degree.
“There’s a huge complexity about the funding and organisation of the degree”, he said, pointing out that six other bodies were involved.
Powers over employers
He also repeated his call made earlier this year to strengthen the GSCC’s regulatory powers over employers. Sanctions should be issued where appropriate, he said, including cases where managers had failed to provide sufficient practice guidance to staff.
“This is vital to the future of social workers and social care,” he added.
Brooke cited a recent GSCC survey, which found that 23% of social workers had not been made aware of need to adhere to the code of practice by their employers. He also pointed to the failure of three local authorities to check the register of a man they employed as a children’s social worker, who turned out to have false credentials, as other examples of poor practice.
Despite “very wide canvassing” to put the employers’ code of practice on a statutory footing, Brooke failed to have this included in the Health and Social Care Act, which passed into law in July.
However, he said there was an opportunity for new health and social care inspectorate the Care Quality Commission, which takes over the functions of the Commission for Social Care Inspection next April, to assess employers’ compliance with the code.
Reflecting on his six and a half years in the post, Brooke cited launching the social work register for England in 2003, and an accompanying IT system holding details of 95,000 social workers and social work students, as “tremendous achievements”.
He highlighted the importance of the conduct system for social workers, which has seen 24 practitioners removed from the register in 53 hearings since they began in 2006.
“The proceedings have been entirely successful despite their complexity,” he said.
Home care registration
Responding to Brooke’s criticisms on home care registration, a DH spokesperson said: “The Department of Health remains committed to the importance of the registration of home care workers in public protection and raising quality within the sector.
“We need to do this in a way that does not create unnecessary burden, is cost effective and is based on best available evidence as to what works. DH is currently in discussion with GSCC on how best to achieve this. Further announcements will be made in due course”