Ex-union official Owen Davies tells Amy Taylor that as head of policy development at the General Social Care Council he will champion social workers
“A lot of people have told me that I’m a poacher turned gamekeeper but it really doesn’t feel like that to me,” says Owen Davies, on his move from Unison to the General Social Care Council.
Earlier this month, Davies left his post as the union’s national officer for social care to become the GSCC’s head of policy development.
He says that every job he has done has reflected his motivation to reduce social exclusion amid an essentially wealthy society. This applies as much to his GSCC role as his Unison job and his previous employment as a social worker, Davies declares.
He says: “I can do the same thing here because the GSCC’s role is to ensure that social care in general has value and is provided in a way that service users want, and that includes making sure that the workforce is regulated and promoted as a part of that process.”
He admits he cannot stand up for the workforce as much at the GSCC as in his Unison position, but says this is no longer the prime focus of his role.
He says that along with the interests of the workforce the GSCC must also take account of the interests of other groups, such as provider organisations.
“To that extent I have to take a more balanced view but championing the workforce is part of the GSCC’s role,” he adds.
Last week, the GSCC issued a consultation on how England’s estimated 750,000 residential and domiciliary care workers would be registered. Davies says registration of these groups is necessary.
“Everybody in social work knows that there are a small number of care workers who should be working somewhere else,” he says.
The consultation document proposes that there will be a registration fee of £20 to £30 a year for workers. Whether this should be met by the residential and domiciliary care staff themselves or their employers is one of the issues yet to be decided.
But due to the low wages of those involved, Davies says the GSCC expects employers will cover the costs. Even if this is not the case, he disputes the claim that it could put many people off working in the sectors, saying this depends on how many hours they are employed for and their own personal circumstances.
Whether personal assistants, who people employ themselves through direct payments, should be required to register is due to be discussed in a separate consultation.
Davies treads carefully around the issue, saying that the GSCC is open minded and is waiting to hear stakeholders’ views. He is well aware that this is likely to be a contentious area as some service users argue they should be able to employ who they wish and not be subjected to any regulations.
Apart from registration, Davies is also involved in reviewing the codes of practice for social care workers set by the GSCC.
He says that as cases of misconduct begin to come in, the commission is learning how the codes are being used in the sector and where any gaps might be.
Options for Excellence, the current government review to improve the quality of the social care workforce, is another area of Davies’ work.
Though one of the review’s aims is “increasing the supply of social workers and social care workers”, question marks have been raised over the government’s willingness to invest in tackling recruitment and retention problems.
Davies says there is “absolutely no doubt” that ministers are committed to improving recruitment and retention in social care.
While his positive outlook is to be welcomed, next year’s comprehensive spending review will show just how deep this commitment goes.