Hope has been expressed that a blueprint has finally been devised for social work reform but doubts remain about the impact of political wrangles and spending cuts.
Sector leaders said it was vital that momentum was retained following the publication of government’s implementation plan for the Social Work Task Force recommendations, with many fearing that adults’ services could become marginalised with much focus on children’s social work.
• Helga Pile, national officer for social workers at Unison, which represents 40,000 practitioners, welcomed the promised health checks for social work departments. But she called for more action to tackle the heavy load of paperwork.
“Health checks are vital to bridge the gap in understanding between managers and staff working on the front line,” Pile said. “Unless they can get together with staff and unions to examine the full extent of the problems they face, they have no hope of finding a solution.”
• Ruth Cartwright, joint manager of the British Association of Social Workers in England, said the focus on child protection and a lack of allocated funding for adults’ services could lead to budget cuts in adult social work.
She said: “There has been so much media focus on the lack of resources in child protection that authorities are protecting children’s services. But adults’ services are taking the full impact of cuts.
“Of course, no-one would want children’s services to be cut but this means many people’s quality of care is hugely diminished.”
• Roger Kline, social care spokesperson for Aspect, which represents social workers in children’s and adult services, said the government had presented a “credible way forward”, but doubts remained over funding.
“The problem is going to be whether what local authority employers do given their funding pressures undermines what the reform programme is trying to achieve,” he said.
“Education spending is ring-fenced, healthcare is ring-fenced, but social services spending isn’t. We’re also concerned that the voluntary sector benefits from the reforms, as councils may be tempted to slash budgets which include funding for training social workers in the voluntary sector.”
• Jane Haywood, chief executive at the Children’s Workforce Development Council, said the report provided a “strong and comprehensive blueprint for the future of the profession”.
• Rosie Varley, chair of the General Social Care Council, said the regulator was already developing “a more robust and transparent system” for regulating social work degree programmes in response to the taskforce recommendations.
She added: “It is crucial that the Reform Board and its partners keep up the momentum to deliver these reforms as quickly and effectively as we can.”
• Allan Bowman, chair, Social Care Institute for Excellence, said the report set out “a clear direction for social work”, adding that Scie looked forward to “improving the knowledge-base for social work”.
• Nick Johnson, chief executive of the Social Care Association, said: “The focus this work has given to the bruised profession of social work is commendable. However, the challenge for this programme is whether the political will continues to exist to see it to conclusion. “
• The Association of Directors of Children’s Services and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services welcomed the government’s £200m funding commitment.
However, Kim Bromley Derry, president of ADCS, said the challenges faced by local authorities in rolling out the reforms should not be underestimated.
“The devil will be in the detail. Some of the money will be ring-fenced and distributed to local authorities via CWDC. Individual local authorities will know in the next two weeks or so what their allocation to remodel services will be,” he said.
• Andrea Rowe, chief executive of Skills for Care, described the report as a “very important contribution to making sure that social work as a profession has a strong footing for the future”.