Social work registration: DH should abide by fitness ruling

Disability campaigners have urged the Department of Health to scrap requirements for social workers to show they are in good health as a condition of registration, 18 months after an inquiry found this was discriminatory.

In September 2007, the Disability Rights Commission said the use of health standards as registration conditions for social workers, teachers and nurses led to “discriminatory attitudes, policies and practices” against disabled people.

Failed to commit

But the DH has still failed to commit itself to implementing one of the DRC’s key recommendations – amending the Care Standards Act 2000 to remove the requirement for registered social care staff in England and Wales to be “physically or mentally fit” to perform their role.

The General Social Care Council backed reform in January 2008, saying it should be up to employers to decide whether practitioners are fit to practise.

In a report last September, the GSCC said 30 practitioners were refused registration in England on health grounds between 2003 and 2008.

Judge the quality

Peter Beresford, professor of social work at Brunel University and chair of service user organisation Shaping Our Lives, said disabled social workers needed to be judged on the quality of their practice.

“There has to be some cause for concern about the delays from the Department of Health,” he added.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, called for a timetable for scrapping fitness standards across social care and health, and highlighted the value disabled practitioners brought to social work practice.

The DH has commissioned a review of the use of fitness standards in the registration of health professionals. It is due to report next month.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which replaced the DRC in October 2007, said it was continuing to pursue its predecessor’s recommendations.

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