Government reveals plans for new regulator ‘Social Work England’

The new body, described as "independent" by ministers, would have to get standards approved by government

Any professional standards for social workers developed by a new “independent” regulator will have to be approved by the education secretary and health secretary, under plans tabled by ministers.

The new body, provisionally named Social Work England, could also have its first chief executive appointed by the secretaries of state and must have all subsequent appointments approved by the government.

The moves, set out in a government amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, mark an attempt by the Department for Education to increase its influence over the standards social workers, and social work courses, must meet.

The DfE had hoped to bring social worker regulation under direct government control. However, fierce opposition to that plan saw it abandoned last week with ministers pledging to create an “independent” regulator instead.

That body will be Social Work England and, if the government’s plans are approved by parliament, it will take over social worker regulation from the Health and Care Professions Council in September 2018.

Ministers have pledged to meet the estimated £10m initial set up costs of Social Work England and have promised to spend up to £16m by 2020 in funding the running costs. No registration fee increases are currently planned and Social Work England would have to consult on any increase, the DfE has said.

The HCPC is operationally and financially independent of government. It is accountable to parliament, not the government of the day. Neither the education or health secretaries has the power to approve or reject its work. Instead HCPC is required to consult “appropriate” organisations, including social work and service user representatives before setting standards.

Last week social work leaders welcomed the government’s decision to pledge a new “independent” body for social workers, but said the degree of independence would be key.

At the time Ruth Allen, BASW chief executive, said: “We are still concerned about its level of independence…It needs to have clear accountability to Parliament as a whole and that needs to be explicit.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Excellent social workers transform lives and we want to raise the status of the profession by setting up a bespoke regulator.

“Social Work England will be responsible for setting standards for social workers – from initial education and training to professional standards and on to post-qualification.

“Ministers will not be involved in the day to day running of the regulator but they, alongside the independent Professional Standards Authority, will be responsible for holding this new organisation to account, to ensure children and adults access the best social work services.”

12 Responses to Government reveals plans for new regulator ‘Social Work England’

  1. mm November 4, 2016 at 12:31 am #

    How many times does the social work profession have to have a new body to regulate it…GSCC, HCPC, attempts from The Social Work College and now Social Work England..with how much wasted tax payers money. To be honest it’s become a joke and embarrassment…

  2. John Smith November 4, 2016 at 6:51 am #

    See this FOI request for how HCPC spends its registration fees: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/december_meal_for_all_employees#incoming-878289

    • A Man called Horse November 4, 2016 at 11:52 am #

      Yes, this is a bloody disgrace. They do nothing for Social Workers but happy to spend our money on Christmas Lunch. Looks like there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

  3. Jody Resuggan November 4, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    I don’t think that we need another new regulator when there is nothing wrong with the current one. As an adult social worker, I think that £26m from 2018-20 would be better placed towards the ever decreasing budget for adult social care.

    • Maria November 23, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Absolutely Jody, I also work within ASC and the lack of funding has gone beyond crisis point. !!!!

  4. Lilybright November 4, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    Just what is “independent” about a regulator that is funded by government , its Chief Exec appointed / approved by government, & its standards set by government ?

  5. Andrew November 4, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    HI, good work with the FOI. I am stunned that they think this is acceptable. Just what world are they living in, because it certainly isn’t the world of social workers – who they purport to regulate?

    I would suggest as many of us as possible write to the chief executive and complain about the misuse of our fees.

    Marc Seale
    Chief Executive and Registrar
    The Health and Care Professions Council
    Park House 184 Kennington Park Road
    London
    SE11 4BU

    Tel: 44(0)20 7840 9708

    Email: marc.seale@hcpc-uk.org

  6. Alex November 4, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Move to HCPC was the worse decision for the Social Work Profession. Glad we will finally have a dedicated regulator.

  7. A Man called Horse November 4, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Independent” regulator will have to be approved by the education secretary and health secretary, under plans tabled by ministers. could also have its first chief executive appointed by the secretaries of state and must have all subsequent appointments approved by the Government. Any professional standards for social workers developed by a new “independent” regulator will have to be approved by the education secretary and health secretary, under plans tabled by ministers.

    This is a joke right? In what way is it independent?? A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Excellent social workers transform lives and we want to raise the status of the profession by setting up a bespoke regulator.

    Well How about raising the very poor pay levels? Thought not. How about stop scapegoating Social Workers? Thought not. How about stop cutting funding to Local Authorities making our work even more difficult? Thought not. How about the Tories stop cutting welfare causing poverty and misery to children? Thought not. Business as usual, thought so.

    • Nora McClelland November 4, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

      I share your scepticism about the level of independence any regulatory body will be permitted when the approval and appointments will be determined by government ministers committed to pursue whatever there own particular political agendas are at the time – It seems to me that in accepting the new framework of “independent” regulation social work is to be given up to the politicians who will define what social work is/does at all levels – in education (qualifying and post qualifying) and in practice the task social workers will be asked to do is to become complicit in enacting government policies that social workers see, every day in their work, cause harms to the communities the profession would claim to serve

  8. Duro November 4, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    That equates to £70+ per head. I probably sound naive but I’m actually shocked. I hope for once social workers do stand up for themselves and email Marc Searle, I will be doing so.

  9. LongtimeSW November 4, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    It is going to be neither Independant nor a regulator because it has to be ‘approved’ by central Govt and not directly accountable to parliament – lobbying against it should start now – maybe an action that can be taken is that ALL children & adult social workers point-blank refuse to register with this proposed new body – if all social workers did that it would have no impact on service users whilst giving a headache to Central Government – put your Registration fee into a separate bank account when the HCPC closes. Bread & water for a few weeks in jail? Worth the price for those that follow us.

    If we do this they will give in because their majority is not significant and with other parties voting against [potentially can be defeated with abstentions