Social workers in Northern Ireland warned off registering with council

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.

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

Talks between the union and the government have been in progress
since the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (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 could be sent
home from work because they will not legally be entitled to
practice as social workers or “there is likely to be confrontation
of an industrial action”, warned McCabe.

Fewer than 10 per cent of Northern Ireland’s 2,500 social workers
have registered with the NISCC so far.

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

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 Nipsa is telling workers not to
register. It is a petty approach,” he added.

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

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