The chair of the Northern Ireland Social Care Council has backed ministers’ plans to roll out registration for all care workers in the country, saying it will affirm their status as professionals.
Lily Kerr, who took over as chair in December, said she was “delighted” to have been tasked with the phased introduction of priority groups of social care staff to the register within two years.
Northern Ireland is the first of the UK nations to roll out compulsory regulation to the entire workforce, under plans set out by social services minister Michael McGimpsey at the end of last year.
Ministers in England recently ruled out a similar system in England, preferring to explore voluntary registration instead. And the Welsh Assembly Government announced last week that it would register social care managers, but not individual care workers.
In an interview with Community Care, Kerr argued that registration would affirm the professional status of social care workers.
Kerr, who championed cross-workforce regulation in her former role as regional officer for Unison, pointed out that 7,500 social care workers out of an estimated workforce of 27,000 are already registered with the NISCC on a voluntarily basis.
“Demand for registration came from the ground up,” she said. “Social care workers in Northern Ireland embrace registration.”
There are already 5,000 social workers and social work students on the NISCC’s statutory register. Kerr admitted extending registration to the rest of the workforce would be “challenging”.
But she was confident that the NISCC had the necessary funding and support. “It’s very ambitious, but I think we’re capable. We don’t need any more money for this next wave of registration.”
Commenting on the recent decision to rule out compulsory registration in England, Kerr said: “I don’t believe that will impact on the NISCC’s work.”
In the wide-ranging interview, she also said there was little support for a college of social work in Northern Ireland.
“There hasn’t been any discussion within Northern Ireland about a college.
“At this point in time it is not a priority.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails