The Social Work Bill proposed by the British Association of Social Workers has received a cool response from trade unions and government.
The bill, published last week, called for every local authority in England to be held accountable to a generic social work board, which would feature practitioners, service users and lay people.
The boards would be responsible for commissioning and funding of independent, GP-style social work practices.
Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social work, said the practices endorsed by BASW would amount to privatisation and a profit motive creeping into the profession.
“The proposals signal a massive reorganisation of the profession, and we worry that this could lead to a new bureaucratic nightmare and a new set of quangos,” she said.
The Department for Education said ministers would consider BASW’s bill as they took forward social work reform, although they had no plans to introduce a such bill.
But BASW said establishing local social work boards to ensure councils provide adequate workplace resources for practitioners would result in more effective support and supervision for professionals.
Chief executive Hilton Dawson denied claims that the bill would result in more bureaucracy and argued that social work practices would empower practitioners to take responsibility for their own work.
“This is about supporting local development, supporting integration, supporting co-operation but ensuring the social workers who are part of those arrangements have proper professional supervision and support,” he said.
Andy Sawford, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said the bill went against current policy initiatives supporting integration of health and social care.
But Dawson said: “What we’re talking about is a line of professional supervision coupled with a line of financial accountability and I don’t think it would undermine effective integrated local arrangements at all. What it will do is strengthen the social work profession.”
BASW has asked for a slot on the agenda of the next meeting of the Social Work Reform Board on 25 November to discuss the bill.
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