Children’s social workers in England could be moved to a licence to practise model of regulation similar to that used in medicine, education secretary Michael Gove has revealed.
In his written response to Martin Narey’s review of social work education, Gove said the chief social worker for children and families, Isabelle Trowler, was developing plans for the introduction of a “more rigorous testing regime” for children’s social workers.
Under the plans, social workers would take a licence to practise exam and would have to demonstrate on a regular basis that they are fit to practise, by participating in compulsory revalidation.
Gove said he was “personally supportive” of this work, which would bring the regulation of children’s social workers in line with doctors.
Gove accepted Narey’s recommendation to set out in a single document what a newly qualified children’s social worker needs to understand upon graduating. This will be based on work, led by Trowler, to develop a clearer definition of the role of children’s social work in general.
He also indicated that the government would support the recommendation to allow undergraduate social work students to specialise after their first year: “We want to see university students committed to working with children specialise in children’s issues, both academically and in their practice placements.”
And he reiterated his support for the Frontline and Step Up to Social Work programmes, which were broadly praised in Narey’s review.
However, Gove said more consideration was needed before making any decisions regarding the regulation of social workers.
He said ministers would look at Narey’s recommendation to streamline the process for approving and auditing children’s social work training by transferring some or all of the Health and Care Professions Council’s duties to The College of Social Work in more detail.
“The cluttered landscape of standards and university endorsement criteria should be cleared, and the criteria sharpened. We shall consider Sir Martin’s recommendations for a single body to approve and audit children’s social work training; and further consider how to strengthen regulation of the profession.”