Government to regulate social workers from 2018

New social work body will be government executive agency accountable to the education secretary

Department for Education
Department for Education

Social workers will be regulated by the government from 2018, under plans tabled by ministers.

A new government executive agency will replace the HCPC as the regulator for social workers in England, under regulations underpinning the Children and Social Work Bill.

The agency will be accountable to the education secretary and based in the Department for Education (DfE). It will be supported by the DfE and Department of Health with both departments sharing responsibility for social work policy.

The move will see the government introduce a new set of professional standards for social workers, more “challenging” CPD requirements, and a tougher approval regime for social work degree programmes. The agency will also oversee the fitness-to-practise system and introduce post-qualifying accreditation and career development pathways.

A chief executive for the new agency will be appointed next year. An expert reference group will also be set up to “help ensure the views of the sector are taken into account” when developing standards.

In a report outlining the plans, the government said it believes social work regulation “urgently needs” reform.

“We need to set credible standards which address evidence of failings in practice and set clear expectations of the profession,” the report said.

It added: “A distinct social work specific regulator will have the expertise and standards oriented approach essential to this drive for improvement.”

The move marks a shift from the current system, with the HCPC operationally and financially independent of government. The HCPC is also accountable to parliament rather than the government of the day.

Fears have been raised government-controlled regulation will see social work’s professional standards driven by short-term government policy agendas.

Ministers considered setting up a wholly independent social-work specific regulator but concluded it was better to “bring regulation closer to government” due to the need to reform and a desire to “effect change quickly”.

There will be sufficient checks and balances to make sure there is not “inappropriate political interference”, the government’s report said. Fitness-to-practise decisions will be kept at ‘arm’s length’ of ministers, it added.

After three years the arrangement will be reviewed to consider whether the regulator requires more independence.

The government has committed to meeting the set up costs of the new agency. Details of how much those set up costs will be, or how ongoing running costs will be met, have yet to be revealed.

However, the report said there were no plans to increase the £90 a year registration fee currently paid by social workers within the current spending review period, which ends in March 2020.

What the new body will do

  • Publish new professional standards, aligning with the chief social workers’ knowledge and skills statements
  • Set new standards for qualifying education and training, and reaccredit providers against these standards by 2020
  • Maintain a single register of social workers, annotating it to denote specialist accreditations
  • Set new social work specific CPD standards
  • Oversee a robust and transparent fitness to practise system
  • Approve post qualifying programmes and training in specialisms including Approved Mental Health Professionals and Best Interests Assessors
  • Oversee the proposed new assessment and accreditation system for child and family social workers
  • Oversee the required arrangements for succesfully completing the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE)

The Children and Social Work Bill is currently going through parliament. Labour has opposed the section of the bill outlining changes to social work regulation.

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20 Responses to Government to regulate social workers from 2018

  1. Matt Ward June 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    Here we go again looking at addressing ‘evidence of failings’ and not good practice which will bring our profession forward.

    • Sally Attwood July 3, 2016 at 11:52 am #

      My reaction exactly. Of course there are ‘failings’ from time to time, as in any area of human endeavor; but the suggestion that it is the failings that are the mainstay of this profession’s activity ignores the skills, talents and commitment of thousands of professionally qualified social workers who adhere to good practice.

  2. Carol Jones June 29, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    As a retired social worker I agree the profession should be regulated but do not think we should be accountable to the Education Secretary. What does the Education Dept. know about social work? Very little if judged by the performance of Ofsted which uses inappropriate education standards to judge social work depts. & institutions. Standards should be set & judged by respected managers from within the social work profession. As usual everyone else thinks they could do better than the highly trained social workers themselves. Of course there are incompetent people who should be weeded out, but so there are in Education & Health too. It really is a case of physician heal thyself.

  3. Peter Endersby June 29, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    So social work will suffer the same swings and knee her policies that education endures. Wave goodbye to the long term and hello to election cycles and political expediency.

  4. Phill wheatley June 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    Political non-interference, really? I’d like to see if Dh and DoE can improve the longevity of social workers. On average they work 7.7 yrs, in the army, 10.

  5. elbasha June 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    Last person out please switch the lights off.

  6. John Wakeling June 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    There should be better preparation for potential social workers before they join the profession. Currently the training does not prepare them for real social work practice.
    Caseloads should be capped at a manageable and realistic level. Social workers should be allowed to carry out social work, and less time spent on administration and record keeping.
    It should be mandatory for regular supervision at appropriate intervals be given to social workers.
    Excellent communication should be a mandatory requirement for social workers, without fail!

    • Stella Egwuatu June 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

      Well spoken John. I quite agree with you. There is a serious need to improve the practical social work rather than the over spent hours on administration.

  7. Hels June 29, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

    Is it April 1st!!!!!

  8. student social worker June 29, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    This is just depressing. I had a vague idea of moving to scotland once I qualify… now after the EU results and now this I feel compelled to leave England ASAP.

  9. Santokh Ghai June 29, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    Why was General Social Care Council disbanded in 2014 if a new one is to be formed after moving the registration etc to HCPC?

    • Michael Isles June 30, 2016 at 7:48 am #

      Unfortunately, Santokh, it won’t be like the GSCC, which was in essence independent of Government. It will be direct regulation by a partisan and hostile government, irrespective of what is being said about ‘glass walls’ and ‘checks and balances’.
      No other profession would let the government regulate them – can you imagine doctors solicitors or nurses putting up with this horrendous state of affairs. Let’s see if BASW does anything to challenge this. All the best, Michael

  10. Hazelczw June 30, 2016 at 5:17 am #

    The department of health seems a better option to be responsible for social worker regulation.
    The social work “profession” definitely needs overhauling. From what I’ve seen a lot of the social workers are not fit to practice. The management system is very weak, which creates a breeding ground for corruption, I’ve witnessed third world type corruption such as black on black racism and cronyism; involving line “managers” who have become tinpot dictators.
    The hcpc lacks capacity to deal with social workers who discriminate against and bully fellow social workers. Senior managers lack capacity to deal with lower managers who engage in the abuse of office.
    Peofessionalism is much better in the NHS.

  11. Sheila Daly June 30, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    Yes, social work needs to be regulated and practice improved where necessary. However, this should be done by people who are experienced in social work and driven by the needs of the profession and our customers – not by political expediency.

  12. Gwen June 30, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    What about adult social care? What does the education secretary know about mental health, older persons, and disability care?

  13. Sunit R June 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    What should be done is the waiting time for candidates to decrease! At the moment, no one regulates the HCPC, and it is taking longer then 4 months for candidates to get on this register. This is resulting in council`s having to wait longer for experienced social workers to start. It seems like the HCPC are not accountable to anyone and have no urgency, in what is a urgent skill`s shortage.

  14. LongtimeSW June 30, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    So our future ‘Boss of Bosses’, Capo du Tutto Capi’ will be Johnson, Gove, or some other rich layabout telling us we don’t work hard enough and don’t need a payrise or any more staff?

    Some of you out there voted for these clowns and are now reaping what you’ve sewn.

  15. real life social work July 1, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    We need more resources and funding for the people we work with. Less case loads, respect and confidence from the courts and more face to face work than paper work to improve not more hoops.

  16. Kelly Burgess July 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Hmm – how reassuring is this, given the state of our government. A quote I came across recently:
    “We trained hard… but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation”. Gains Petronius Arbiter 27 AD – 66 AD.

    This sums up many of our Local Authorities and also our government.
    Gove had had a reputation for negatively impacting on our education system and now our judicial system, Jeremy Hunt has been in conflict with our NHS junior doctors (and others). The consistent theme seems to be that they don’t understand what people do in the government departments.

    What a mess.

    • Michael Isles July 4, 2016 at 6:53 am #

      Couldn’t agree more, Kelly, and in the case of most current cabinet ministers, they have not the faintest clue as to what austerity or poverty actually mean. Best wishes, Michael.