Adults’ services social workers at Barnet Council have raised concerns over plans for them to undertake occupational therapy tasks to provide “holistic support” to service users.
The north London authority is introducing the “trusted assessor” role to reduce the number of visits from professionals and improve person-centred care as part of a wider restructure of adult care in September.
Practitioners will be expected to offer a range of holistic support appropriate to people’s needs rather than “services linked to an individual’s specialism”.
However, a local Unison leader, representing 150 council social care workers and occupational therapists, said the role would undermine members’ professional status. The union has given employers 10 demands regarding the role, including a nationally recognised qualification, minimising administrative tasks and effective supervision.
Like all local authorities in England, Barnet is using a share of £520m to roll out a personal budgets system for all users of adult care by 2011 under the government’s Putting People First agreement.
“The concept of trusted assessment is that an individual is trained in an area of social care other than that which they primarily practise, for example a social worker receiving training on the provision of some occupational therapy equipment,” said a council spokesperson, who added that the restructure and other efficiency reforms would enable personal budgets to be introduced.
But Unison oppossed the move. “Social workers’ roles have been undermined with the increase in administrative tasks over the past few years,” said Helen Davies, chair of Unison’s local government branch in Barnet.
“This is seen as another example of the failure by employers to respect the integrity of our profession,” she added.
The personalisation reforms had caused confusion about the social work role, Davies said.
Lynne Hillan, Barnet Council’s lead member for communities, said: “We are surprised by the concerns raised publicly as the council had previously given assurances that were accepted in principle by Unison.”
She emphasised that staff would receive more training, and promised that trusted assessors would work only on less complex cases.