Skills for Care to define adult social work for personalisation era

Skills for Care is leading a project to define the roles and tasks of adult social workers within a personalised care system, the Department of Health revealed today.

It said the workforce development body was working with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and General Social Care Council to define adult practitioners’ place within the government’s Putting People First reforms.

These are designed to personalise care around the choices of service users, through personal budgets, self-assessment and universal access to information and advice on care.

The DH made the announcement in a consultative statement on the workforce implications of Putting People First. It is planning to publish a full adult social care workforce strategy this autumn.

The Skills for Care-led project follows the generic statement on the roles and tasks of social work published by the GSCC in March, which it will build upon.

Changes in role

The drive to personalise care has already seen councils make changes to adult social workers’ roles.

In Devon, most assessments are now carried out over the telephone by teams with few or no qualified social workers, with the latter care managing more complex cases in tandem with health professionals. In addition, services are now arranged by brokerage teams, including staff with backgrounds in finance and procurement.

In Torbay, an “excellence model of social work” is being implemented, which is expected to reduce paperwork and assessments by qualified practitioners, enabling them to concentrate on more complex work, such as safeguarding.


Today’s DH paper stresses “the key role of social workers in safeguarding adults in vulnerable circumstances and service user safety”.

However, the Skills for Care project is expected to define a continuum of interventions in which social workers have a role, from assessments to safeguarding.

Newly qualified social workers

The DH also promised to “develop a suite of tools” to support social workers in their first years of practice, “to define and embed good practice”.

This is expected to draw on work carried out by Skills for Care over the past 18 months on innovative ways of training and learning, which looked at the experiences of newly qualified practitioners.

However, there is no pledge as yet from the DH to pilot structured extra support for adult practitioners, including through managed caseloads and extra supervision, as promised for children’s social workers.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families-funded three-year pilot programme for newly qualified social workers, which is currently being developed by the Children’s Workforce Development Council, will begin in September.

This is part of a £73m package of measures from 2008-11 to improve the quality, retention and development of children’s social workers, which has sparked fears that adult social work is being left behind.

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