Social workers in six councils have been promised more freedom to work with service users independently of local authorities by piloting social work practices for adult social care.
The six practices, which are expected to start this summer, will be social worker-led organisations who will support specific groups of adults and their carers in pilots expected to last two years, under contract with local authorities.
“Our plans will free up front line social workers to do what they do best: help people maintain their independence,” said care services minister Paul Burstow. “This shift in power will give people greater control over their care and support.”
The projects are:
• Birmingham Council, whose pilot is providing the full range of social work tasks for people with physical disabilities and long term conditions.
• London Borough of Lambeth, where the pilot is providing for all adults either funding their own care or having needs below the Fair Access to Care Services threshold.
• North East Lincolnshire Care Plus Trust, which is providing for older people, including those with mental health problems and adults with physical, sensory or learning disabilities.
• Shropshire Council, which is providing for older people, people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities.
• Suffolk Council, which will support adults who are deaf, visually impaired or who have dual sensory loss.
• Surrey Council, which is caring for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,
The pilots, which will be overseen by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, are based on existing practices for looked-after children. The DH said it expected them to provide social workers with more job satisfaction, and control over their day-to-day practice, and enable to provide service users with more continuity and responsive care.
However, Unison attacked the plans. “It is not what social workers want,” said national officer for social work Helga Pile. “They don’t want to be entrepreneurs, they want genuine reform, less bureaucracy, and more control over decision-making. Why not just get on with delivering this change rather than wasting time and precious funds on experiments in privatisation?”
She also attacked the DH’s decision to go ahead with the pilots before the publication of the evaluation into the children’s services pilots.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has previously warned that social work practices could fragment services. However, incoming president Peter Hay, whose authority, Birmingham, is one of the pilots, described it as an experiment in changing existing working practices that had been found wanting.
“Do we want to remain in a system that we slag off? No we don’t,” he said, “It’s worth a try. This is a step to try and address some of those longer term issues about a profession that need to regain its confidence.”
In addition, plans have been announced to strengthen the legislation on direct payments to ensure councils make clear to every person entitled to care and support how they can make use of a direct payment.
Directions will be issued to councils to ensure they have a full and open discussion with service users about direct payments. This looks designed to support the government’s ambition of having all users on personal budgets by 2013, with direct payments as the default option for delivering them.
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