The Department of Health has accepted the need for a major overhaul of the General Social Care Council’s conduct system after a damning report revealed a long history of management failings.
In response to recommendations from the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), which conducted the review, the DH has agreed to consider replacing the conduct system for social workers with a “fitness to practice” model as used by healthcare regulators.
This would allow the GSCC to have greater flexibility in terms of the sanctions it imposes, such as allowing a social worker to continue practising under certain conditions.
Ministers agreed in principle that the GSCC needs to become more financially independent of the Department of Health in order to become more flexible and efficient in the way it operates.
However, the government said it would need to consider the impact this would have on potential increases to registration fees for social workers.
The review of the GSCC’s conduct system by the CHRE was ordered by health secretary Andy Burnham in July after the discovery of a backlog of more than 200 unallocated conduct cases. It concluded the overall system was “not effective, efficient or well-governed”.
The DH accepted a number of recommendations for the GSCC to improve its case management systems and other operational functions, some of which are already under way.
Phil Hope, care services minister (pictured), said: “The government welcomes this report and we broadly accept all of the recommendations. Having the right mechanisms in place to protect the most vulnerable people in society is something the government takes very seriously. It is vital that the GSCC has the right procedures in place to ensure this happens.
“The GSCC has already made significant progress in handling cases and has started to reform its processes. We have set realistic, but challenging, performance targets on matters including risk assessment, allocation of cases and progression of older cases and will monitor performance in these areas.
“We will continue to work closely with the GSCC to ensure its plans are delivered and the GSCC will be giving the Department of Health monthly progress reports. The chair will report to ministers in the Spring.”