The government wants to hear social workers’ ideas on “how best to achieve” a professional body that supports them.
Speaking at the National Children’s and Adult’s Services Conference, children’s minister Edward Timpson spoke about social workers “having their own way of developing their professional identity”.
He said he was open to views on how to complement the new regulator, Social Work England, that the government will set up in 2018.
“I know there’s a feeling for some that another form of professional body would also help. So I want to say today that I stand ready to hear the professions’ ideas on how best to achieve just that,” Timpson said.
“I want to kick off, I hope, a constructive conversation about the kind of professional body and support that social workers would truly value.”
The discussion comes just over a year since The College of Social Work, a professional body established by the government, closed due to a lack of funds. The closure came after the government rejected proposals to hand The College additional functions, which would have secured much-needed income as the organisation faced severe financial difficulties
Timpson did not say whether the government felt another College-type professional body should be set up, or whether there should be an expanded role for an existing organisation such as the British Association of Social Workers.
Innovation project expansion
His speech followed announcements by new education secretary Justine Greening that the government would expand teaching partnerships and several innovation projects.
In total, 11 new teaching partnerships will be set up with £4.7 million in funding from the Department for Education.
The Pause project, an innovation programme that works to stop the cycle of mothers having their children taken into care, will also receive £6.8 million to expand to nine more areas across the country. Its total reach will be 3,000 women in 16 different locations.
Firstline, the leadership development programme run by children’s social work training scheme Frontline, will also receive £3.7 million in government funding to support 400 social work managers across the country.
Positive Choices in Calderdale, an intensive support project for high-risk young people in the local area, is also receiving £444,000 in extra funding to expand.
Greening promised a much-delayed consultation on accreditation of children’s social workers would be published “shortly” and the DfE would also be setting up a “practice based” programme for the development of future practice leaders.
“We want to support and nurture our most talented social workers to become the practice leaders of the future,” Greening said.
“I will be writing to all directors and assistant directors of children’s services to encourage you to think about which of your senior social workers have got the commitment and potential to succeed as practice leaders.
“This programme will be a part of our continued focus we have on improving the service children and families receive.”
Children and Social Work Bill
Greening sought to ease concerns surrounding controversial measures in the Children and Social Work Bill to allow councils to opt out of statutory social care legislation in order to test new ways of working.
Earlier in the day, Labour labelled the plans “dangerous” and claimed they would open the door to privatisation of services. A coalition of campaign groups has claimed the proposals threaten children’s rights.
Greening said the measures were not about privatisation or removing protections from children but instead about empowering practitioners to innovate.
“You’re the experts and we want you to define [social work] for yourselves, but of course within a statutory framework, and that’s the thinking behind the power to innovate.”