Social workers in Northern Ireland advised not to register

A union that represents around 90 per cent of Northern
Ireland’s social workers is advising members against
registering with the country’s social care council,
writes Sally Gillen.

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance argues that the
regulator will not give social workers the same protection against
complaints as their health colleagues.

Speaking exclusively to ‘Community Care’, assistant general
secretary of Nipsa Kevin McCabe said: “One of the issues we
are concerned about is the balance of proof. If a complaint is made
against a nurse it must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. But
a social worker’s guilt must be judged against the much
lesser standard of balance of probabilities.”

In Northern Ireland, social workers are employed by the health
service rather than councils and work more closely with health
professionals. Fewer than 10 per cent of Northern Ireland’s
2,500 social workers have registered with the Northern Ireland
Social Care Council so far.

Talks between the union and the government have been ongoing
since the NISCC was launched two years ago, but the issues are yet
to be resolved.

Unless agreement is reached by the proposed September deadline
for registration, the vast majority of social workers are likely to
be sent home from work because they will not legally be entitled to
practice as social workers or there could be industrial action,
warned McCabe.

Chief executive of the NISCC Brendan Johnston added: “We
have to have a balance between protecting the public and the human
rights of the registrant.”

British Association of Social Workers’ director Ian
Johnston said the association was “absolutely
committed” to the balance of probabilities standard, which
would protect service users.

He said that the General Medical Council had been unable to stop
doctors at the centre of complaints practising in the past because
not enough evidence had been gathered to prove cases beyond all
reasonable doubt. 

“It is very unfortunate that Nispa is telling workers not
to register. It is a petty approach,” he added.

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