England’s social work regulator could be allowed to monitor the activities of independent social work practices, the controversial GP-style arrangements several councils are piloting.
One change being considered in the Law Commission’s inquiry into reforming “fitness to practice” regulation is to permit “entity regulation”, as in the pharmacy sector.
Tim Spencer-Lane, a lawyer on the commission’s public law team, said social work organisations had expressed an interest in entity regulation at a recent meeting of stakeholders and regulators.
“They are interested in whether it could be applied to the independent social work practices because they are outside their regulatory system,” he said.
At the meeting there was also debate over allowing conduct hearings to issue cost orders. If this happened, individuals could be ordered to pay some or all of the costs incurred by the regulator (or vice versa).
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence is in favour of allowing cost orders since it would deter time-wasting in proceedings.
But Marc Seale, the chief executive of the Health Professions Council – which takes over from the General Social Care Council as social work’s regulator next year – is opposed. He said it could result in low-paid public sector workers being liable for legal costs.
Spencer-Lane said the commission is exploring whether individual regulators should be able to choose whether to allow cost orders but added that it “wouldn’t want a one-size-fits-all rule on them”.
The commission expects to publish a consultation setting out its proposed reforms on 1 March 2012.
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