The ‘rudimentary’ level of training provided to best interests assessors (BIAs) must be significantly improved to protect service users under the deprivation of liberty safeguards (Dols), Paul Burstow has been told.
Despite BIAs’ power to recommend whether people should be deprived of their liberty in care homes or hospitals, The College of Social Work warned that current levels of training were inadequate to the role, in a letter to the care services minister.
Currently BIAs must be social workers, nurses, occupational therapists or psychologists with at least two years’ post-registration experience who have undertaken an approved course, lasting about five days, and have received appropriate refresher training.
However, The College contrasted this with the “well-regarded” three-month training programme for approved mental health professionals, who recommend whether people should be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.
BIA training courses are currently approved by the Department of Health, but can only be delivered by providers approved to deliver post-qualifying courses by the General Social Care Council. But with the regulator due to be abolished in July, this role will also pass to the Department of Health, making it fully responsible for approviing BIA training.
“[The College of Social Work] would welcome the opportunity to work more closely with the department to ensure that new arrangements are in place to train and retain people appropriately.”
The letter to Burstow contained a series of proposals to reform adult social work, drawing on a summit held by the College this month, and is designed to influence the forthcoming adult care White Paper.
It said plans to create principal social work posts for children’s services to provide professional leadership in councils should be replicated for adults’ services and mental health in all organisations employing significant numbers of social workers.
The College also said it wanted to ensure that adult safeguarding case work was reserved for social workers, reflecting concerns that non-qualified staff were taking on this role in some areas. Helping service users manage risk and making decisions on behalf of those who lacked capacity to take them required social work “values, skills and expertise”, it said.
The letter also called for social work to be “liberated from the care management strait-jacket” to move into community development and preventive support, echoing comments made by Burstow himself.
“Self-confident social workers, relishing the chance to be creative and to exercise professional judgement despite challenging circumstances, must be a key part of your workforce,” The College told Burstow.
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