The General Social Care Council has raised concerns over the government’s failure to extend new requirements on employers to run checks on social care staff to cover most social workers.
Draft regulations on health and social care standards would introduce requirements for adult social care employers to support staff to meet the requirements of the GSCC’s code of practice, ensure staff are registered where this is required and report any breaches of the code by registered staff to the GSCC.
The regulations are due to come into force next April, in the same year that the GSCC opens its register to home care staff.
Regulations do not cover social work
However, the regulations would largely not apply to social workers – the only group of social care staff currently registered with the GSCC – because most do not perform “regulated activities”, such as providing personal care or accommodation.
In its response to draft Care Quality Commission guidance on complying with the regulations, which closed for consultation this week, the GSCC warned that the government’s failure to include social workers within the terms of the regulations could put service users at risk.
Employment agency duties to be watered down
This was particularly so given separate government plans to water down requirements on employment agencies to check the identity, training, qualifications and registration status of staff, including social workers, whom they place permanently with organisations.
The proposal, which was included in a consultation paper in March, was justified in terms of reducing duplication between the responsibilities of employers and agencies.
However, the GSCC pointed out that as councils and other social work employers would not be covered by the new health and social care regulations, this would weaken checks overall on social workers.
Bogus social worker case
The problems identified by the GSCC were highlighted by the case of Christopher Nwokoro, who gained employment as a social worker at three councils through an agency despite not being registered and supplying false references.
Last year, a Care Standards Tribunal judge rebuked Denbighshire and Stockport councils for not informing the GSCC about concerns over Nwokoro’s conduct, which allowed him to keep working.
Employers code of practice due to be made mandatory
The “loophole” would be closed if the government fulfils its pledge – given on Lord Laming’s recommendation -to put the GSCC’s code of practice for employers of social care workers on a statutory footing, making it enforceable.
The code calls on employers to support staff to meet their responsibilities under the code of practice for social care workers and report any breaches to the GSCC, but is currently not mandatory.
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