The standards for social work employers in England have been revised and relaunched today in a bid to improve conditions for frontline staff.
Under the revised guidance, employers will be expected to have effective workforce planning in place to prevent high vacancy rates and staff turnover; to ensure safe caseload levels; to provide effective supervision; and to allow adequate opportunities for continuing professional development.
The guidance also sets out what social workers should expect, such as to work in teams that are adequately staff to meet service need and to have their professional judgement about workload capacity issues respected.
The standards were first developed in 2009 by a cross-sector working group drawn from the Social Work Reform Board. They are designed to be used locally and by national regulators, such as Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission; however, they are not mandatory.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has led on revising the standards. “Having an up-to-date set of standards for social work is crucial, not just for making sure that employees are getting the right support and resource to do their job effectively, but also to ensure those who need care are also getting the improved outcomes they deserve,” said Jim McMahon, chair of the LGA’s workforce board.
“We know that social workers do a difficult job in what is an increasingly challenging environment, so anything we can do to help social workers gain and maintain the skills and knowledge they need to build relationships, develop skills and feel supported in the workplace is positive.”
Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, said: “We want the standards to be universally adopted as the essential standard for safe and effective social work practice conditions. They represent the employers’ side of the bargain by giving social workers the support they need in order to exercise their professional responsibilities effectively.
“Working with the other partners to refresh and sharpen them has been constructive, building on the experiences of early adopters. We now have a great opportunity to renew our efforts to spread the word in the sector about their fundamental importance for social work.”
Jo Cleary, chair of the College of Social Work, said the standards make it clear what employers must do to ensure social workers can do their jobs.
“These standards make it clear, amongst other things, that what is required from employers is to ensure social workers are receiving good supervision and are fully supported to meet their development needs,” she said.
Maris Stratulis, England manager at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said: “BASW has been involved in the refresh of the standards for employers and we certainly hope that employers will actively promote and implement the standards.”