GSCC publishes statement on roles and tasks of social work

The General Social Care Council today published the long-awaited statement on the roles and tasks of social work in England for the 21st century.

Describing itself as a guide to “social work at its best”, the statement defines the profession as being “committed to enabling every child and adult to fulfil their potential”, working in partnership with them “whenever possible” and embodying values including equality and human rights.

Support for developing policies

The government said it will use the statement as “source material” for developing the Department of Health’s personalisation agenda for adult care – Putting People First – and the Department for Children, School and Families’ 10-year Children’s Plan.

GSCC chief executive Mike Wardle (left) welcomed this pledge, and added: “The study responds to the desire of social workers to spend more of their time in face-to-face work with the people who need their help and support. It reflects the views of people who use services that they want the support of social workers.”

Welcome from directors

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the statement was “built on a robust consensus about the things that matter in social work today”.

Adass president Anne Williams (left) said: “We welcome this opportunity to reaffirm the importance and enduring value of the social work profession.”

Jane Tunstill and James Blewett, of Synergy Research and Consulting Ltd, who were commissioned to write a preliminary discussion document for the review, said: “We welcome the broad thrust of this statement – the real challenge will be to maintain an appropriate  balance  between the  components of the social work task associated with higher levels of risk and the importance of the social work preventative role,  which the statement reinforces.”

Dissenting voices

However, Peter Beresford (left), chair of service user body Shaping Our Lives and professor of social work at Brunel University, criticised its low-key launch and the lack of public endorsement from ministers.

Saying it felt “less like a launch more like an illicit attempt at burial”, he asked: “Why has it been so long with ministers? Why wasn’t it published by government? Why isn’t there a foreword by ministers or at least adult and children’s leads? Why not even a press release to go with it?”

Identifying social work tasks

Today’s statement says employers “need to identify the situations where a registered, experienced social worker should always be involved”. These include where a child or vulnerable adult needs safeguarding from abuse, neglect or exploitation, and when a child or adult could cause significant harm to themselves or others.

It says these roles require several tasks, including acting as a broker to obtain support for people “through creative use of all available resources” and “arranging good-quality alternative care for children whose parents cannot care for them”. But it says some of these tasks “can be shared with or delegated to” other social care staff under social work supervision.

Employers’ duties

Among its stronger statements is that to ensure good practice, “employers must provide social workers with good quality supervision, realistic workloads, access to learning support and continuing development, enabling IT and management systems and a suitable working environment”.

October draft

The statement is broadly similar to the version circulated at the National Children and Adult Services Conference last October, which was described by some conference delegates as “wet” and “woolly”.

However, the October draft was strongly defended by social care leaders, who said it successfully described social work to a range of audiences and was the result of “exhaustive consultation”.

Ministers commissioned the roles and tasks study in October 2006, when they published the Options for Excellence review on the social care workforce.

Headed by the GSCC, the review was also carried out by the Children’s Workforce Development Council, Commission for Social Care Inspection, Skills for Care and the Social Care Institute for Excellence. It was also informed by a stakeholder reference group, including user and carer organisations and the British Association of Social Workers.

A consultation was launched in March 2007, including an intial draft statement which some critics claimed was watered down for the October 2007 draft.

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