Responsibility for supporting social workers should be removed from local authorities and transferred to local panels comprising practitioners, service users and NHS and council representatives, the British Association of Social Workers has said.
The radical model is proposed in BASW’s “Social Work Bill”, drafted in response to concerns that councils in many parts of England are failing to deliver effective support and supervision for professionals.
In addition to devolving powers to the newly-formed panels or “generic social work boards” to oversee support for social workers, the association wants more social workers to set up and lead their own independent practices. This idea is being piloted by the Department for Education in five authorities in England.
Other measures in the bill, being delivered to Downing Street today, include:
● Establishing a chief social worker to report to and advise government
● Setting up a Social Work Commissioning Board to allocate resources locally
● Forming a Generic Social Work Board in every local authority to oversee workplace support for social workers, and the commissioning and funding of social work practices
● Giving the College of Social Work statutory powers to develop high standards in education, training and professional development
The association claims the Social Work Reform Board’s work in this area, which includes creating a voluntary national standard for employers on workplace support for social workers, was not radical enough to address the challenges facing the profession.
BASW represents 12,800 social workers – about 13% of the UK’s 100,000 registered practitioners. BASW chair Fran Fuller said: “This bill will be controversial because it shifts the exclusive power for supervising social workers from local authorities to wider partnerships that will be more capable of delivering the support frontline practitioners so desperately require.
“But it is vitally important for the profession’s future.”
BASW said the proposed legislation would save the taxpayer money because it would promote the delivery of better services for less money.
“The system isn’t working for the people who most need it to function effectively,” said BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson.
“More vulnerable children and adults will die if social work, which is already stripped to the bone of resources, suffers more cuts and no reform.
“The government has to listen; we have a solution which saves the profession, saves lives and saves money.”
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