Cameron to advance social work reforms through new legislation

Queen's speech confirms government's intention to speed up adoptions and overhaul social work standards

David Cameron
Photo: Tolga Akmen/LNP/REXShuttershock

The government will bring in new powers to speed up adoptions and “improve the standard of social work”, under a bill announced in the Queen’s speech today.

A children and social work bill will include powers to allow for the creation of a social work regulator to focus on training and professional standards, and oversee accreditation of children’s social workers.

The bill will also look to strengthen the rights of care leavers and speed up adoption procedures. The government said the main elements of the bill include:

  • Changes to the considerations that courts must take into account in adoption decisions, “tipping the balance in favour of permanent adoption” where that is the right thing for the child.
  • A new system of regulating social workers by setting up a specialist regulator for the profession with “a clear focus on driving improvement and introducing more demanding professional standards”.
  • A new ‘care leavers covenant’, giving local authorities a statutory duty to tell care leavers the support they are entitled to – including housing, jobs and healthcare.
  • Standards for how local authorities should act as a ‘corporate parent’ to support children in care and as they move into adult life.
  • An extension to the right to a personal adviser, someone who will make sure care leavers receive the support they need as they transition into adulthood, to all who want one up to the age of 25.
  • A duty on local authorities and schools to promote educational achievement for adopted children and those in the long-term care of family members or guardians.
  • Better protection of children by ensuring that lessons are learned from serious child safeguarding cases.
  • Support for innovation in children’s social care by allowing local authorities to pilot new, innovative approaches.

Most of the social work changes have been previously announced and were trailed by Prime Minister David Cameron in an article for the Sunday Times this weekend.

In the piece, Cameron said the profession required reform and his government would have “zero tolerance of state failure” in children’s services.

He pledged to “set new, demanding standards that we will expect every single child and family social worker to meet by 2020. And a new regulator will be brought into oversee this new system”.

The new social work body was first announced by education secretary Nicky Morgan in January. The new organisation will eventually replace the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as the regulator for social work.

20 Responses to Cameron to advance social work reforms through new legislation

  1. Matthew Leo Xander Newman May 18, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    This government needs replacing with actual human beings, the shop justice system needs an overhaul and more effort needs to be put into keeping families together, not tearing them apart.

  2. Kate Page MBE May 18, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    All very laudable in theory but where’s the money? The speech implies that standards are poor now and all social workers unfit to practise. No one would deny there is a mixed picture and improvements can be made, but how can this announcement encourage young people to take social work as a career path.

    As for a new regulator – give me strength! How many times have I heard this over the years?

    ‘Zero tolerance of State failure etc’ sounds like a recipe yet again for privatisation.

  3. K8 May 18, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    And what about Adults Social Workers, as usual we are completely ignored. You can’t reform one half of a profession and leave the other one alone!

    • Michele Winter May 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

      Absolutely! I’m seriously fed up with those needing adult social work support being ignored. Adults with care and support needs are just as important as children and are being let down by care systems and budget cuts in a time when the older population is growing, carers are under stress and the work adult care social workers undertake is side-lined, if not ignored.

      • Jon May 19, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

        As an adult care social worker I am sick with the absolute elitism spin that seems to come towards children social work. I have worked in children and families, adult with a learning disability and now in older peoples social work. social work is social work whichever discipline. There are the same pressures, the same beaurocracy, red tape, unrealistic timescales, pressures of work, media slaughter, government who try and dictate what we do, vilification for what we do by some folk in the community in all aspects of Social work.

        It is only the thanks and praise I get from colleagues, some other professionals and those folk in the community who want and appreciate my support that keeps me going

        I am proud of what I do..maybe Dave and his cronies could do our job any better. Their approach is a long thin end of the wedge to privatisation, mark my words. Virgin Media social Care as sponsored by Sky.
        Just glad I didn’t vote them in.

        • Huw May 24, 2016 at 1:36 am #

          Could not have said it better myself. Well put and I totally agree! Like you I have worked in child care, disabilities and currently older people for some time now. Having been in the profession 24 years the stresses and strains of relentless budget cuts and endless restructures in attempt to save yet more money is I think really beginning to tell on the profession and dedicated professionals trying to cope with the relentless pressures in a society that appears to be more needy of social services than ever before. I really wish the people who pontificate in government would come and do a week on the ground and really get a little bit more of a grip of what as social workers we do as it strikes me they haven’t a clue!!

    • FG May 18, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

      Be pleased you are being left alone and not scapegoated for the Government’s own failures!

    • Truth seeker May 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

      Sometimes it is better to be left alone

    • Milo May 19, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

      Well adults reform happened in the care act 2014, and in a good way, it established your role within the mental health sector and adults transition services.

      The accreditation is expected to follow in the post release of the KSS for adults which was recently published.
      It might be that it happens a little later but you too will one day have to attend an assessment centre and be observed to be told you can do what you already knew you could do.

  4. Christine May 18, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    As a social worker I don’t disagree that things need to improve and buraucratic red tape the first thing but wow at this rate there will be no social workers left the insinuation that social workers are responsible for all that is wrong with social care is bonkers they are working in a climate of continued cuts an austerity brought on by central government resulting in restricted budgets for recruiting sufficient social numbers of social workers to have decent caseliads and therefore give the quality service that everyone has a right to. Social workers are not simply allowed to do the job they trained and invested in they are administrators, trainers and quality asdurers and then social workers. No wonder good experienced social workers ate leaving in their droves when they are constantly told that what your doing isn’t good enough what do you eexpect good will can only go so far

  5. Natalie Farley May 18, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    Its frustrating because Cameron and Co are doing very little to help the families who actually need our help. If they did more to assist those struggling in our society this would then reduce our caseloads, reduce the stress and pressure to leave children in vulnerable situations.

  6. J C May 18, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR FAILURES CAMERON – KEEP DOING WHAT YOU DO BEST – CUT MONEY AND RESOURCES THEN USE SOCIAL WORKERS AS YOUR SCAPEGOATS…..******beeeeep

  7. Wayne May 18, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    Academy style freedoms for social care – this worries me greatly. I have already observed that children are left to drift due to educational academies being frequently unwilling to fund supportive measures that would enable a child to achieve. Feedback from the families I work with often is that they feel less supportive since this agenda took hold.

    Should this same ethos be applied to child protection functions I really feel certain protective functions will be avoided due to cost implications. I believe it will place children at risk.

    I feel the profession does well with the resources they have – Munro directly linked media portrayal of social work with having negative outcomes for children. Mr Cameron seems to pay no attention to this and instead contributes to undermining a profession already at saturation point due to his insidious social policies.

  8. Nell May 18, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

    I would like to see Lord Justice Munby’s face when he is presented with this. We have been caught between the government and the Courts for quite some time now – I don’t blame the Courts who quite rightly will not have the government intervening in their decisions. As for the rest, flim flam. They are hiding their own failings in respect of Benefits, Housing, Health and public services to families who are just not coping with poverty – well, what a surprise! Blaming social work staff will do whta they want, bring about the demise of social work and open the door to Virgin Care or some other equally unqualified business.

    Does anyone know if Isabelle Trowler, the Chief Civil Servant is still on planet Earth? A deafening silence is all we hear about this or the ‘nodding dog’ routine. Sociall Workers bad – Govrenment

  9. Nell May 18, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    Sorry not completed. Social workers bad, government good is what I meant to say. She says nothing which advocates for the professionalism she claimed to support with Reclaiming Social Work.

  10. Bj Elke Petterson May 19, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    OMG infantilize a whole generation of younger people…good thinking Government.

    No wonder so many young people lack resilience when growing up – expectations that the state will provide. It sends the wrong message societally speaking about how to become an adult.

  11. Paul Owens May 19, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    25 years in child care, 15 years in social care.

    5 major transformation in 7 years, computer systems that don’t work properly and break down regularly, Ofsted inspection that focus on the way things are written rather than the content. Paperwork increasing at an alarming rate. Reliance on ‘Signs of Safety’ rather than analytical social work. Practice managers with little managerial expertise and poor man management skills. Hot desk working where a worker can’t even rely on having a desk to sit at. Offices that leak when it rains. 85% turn over of staff with a reliance on agency workers. Governments that criticize rather than support. On-going cuts to social care funding. Lack of realistic/any pay increases.

    But then the state of social care is down to the workforce rather than the years of government cuts and disinterest.

    I should have stayed in engineering but foolishly thought I would be working for a department that valued the vulnerable in society and took care of its workforce.

  12. Lee Annis May 19, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    So this wonderful government seem to think that its the standards of social workers that is the issue in a world where they are cutting massive chunks out of social cares budgets and forcing cuts in services . If they repeatedly give social workers nothing to work with (services and funding) how on earth do they think that those in need can be supported? We can have the best qualifications and standards ever but if we have no services to work with there are going to be problems.

    Also the idea of “A new system of regulating social workers by setting up a specialist regulator for the profession with “a clear focus on driving improvement and introducing more demanding professional standards”. Does sound a wonderful idea doesn’t it Mr Cameron, I’m wondering how many sub-groups, committees and much tax payers money went into coming up with this idea, or did it just take seconds for you to realise that the General Social Care council which you got rid of was actually a good idea in the first place?. So would this be yet another government turn around? Any option of you letting us have a breakdown of the costs involved in closing the GSCC down and now your proposal of creating the same again? I’m sure all that money could have really helped out struggling services across the board rather than being wasted in the manner it has been.

  13. Moses May 19, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    The problem is that Social workers as a profession are not united. It is ok to criticise government constant reorganisation and Cameron tendency to blame social workers for his failure experiments in social engineering. Until social workers are able to stand up against these bullies (Cameron, Nicky Morgan, etc), the profession will continue to be the scape goat of Government failures. This government will never do what it does with Social work, with teachers or doctors, it is time to stand for the profession .

  14. Kate May 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    I am 45 and am in the third year as a social work student via the OU. I am so demoralised by the pressures the profession brings I am changing my degree path. Not to mention that students have to do a 100 day placement unpaid. Not many can afford to do that…..me for one. Sad really as I love working in social care!