The General Social Care Council has made progress in turning round its failing conduct function, according to a report published on the day its abolition was announced.
The regulator identified a backlog of 201 cases in June 2009, prompting the government to order an independent review which went on to identify systemic failings in the management and risk assessment of conduct cases. The review demanded an overhaul of the system to improve public protection.
In its progress report, the GSCC confirmed that it had met a government target to clear the backlog by March. It said that since then there had been no unallocated conduct cases, while risk assessments were being undertaken immediately on new cases.
However, plans have stalled to change GSCC conduct rules to establish a ‘fitness to practise’ system that would enable the council to assess social workers’ professional competence, as well as their conduct, and impose conditions on their practice.
This was a key recommendation from the independent review, by the Commission for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which said it would bring the GSCC more in line with healthcare regulators and enable it to more effectively improve practitioners’ competence.
Plans to consult on rule changes in May and implement them in October were set out in a GSCC progress report to ministers in April.
However, ministers are yet to approve GSCC proposals to reform the conduct rules, meaning the consultation is yet to take place, and it is not known what impact the abolition of the regulator and the transfer of its functions to the Health Professions Council will have.
A DH spokesperson said: “Changes to the GSCC’s conduct rules will need to be considered in the context of the work to implement the transfer of the regulation of social workers to the HPC. The GSCC has made clear to the department that it would expect to consult on changes to its conduct rules.”
The establishment of a fitness to practise regime was one of three areas identified as requiring further progress against the CHRE’s recommendations, in the GSCC’s latest progress report, published this week.
Other issues included the development of an effective system for managing conduct cases, the absence of which the CHRE described as a “fundamental weakness” that meant the GSCC could not manage caseloads or performance manage conduct staff.
In its latest progress report, the GSCC said establishing a case management system was a “long-term piece of work” but added that the spreadsheet-based system it was currently using was “cumbersome, time-consuming and very much dependent on managers maintaining their records thoroughly”, making “robust performance management very difficult to achieve”.
GSCC given six months by government to improve conduct system