A new national career structure for social workers in England will ensure their pay more accurately reflects their skills and experience, under plans laid out by the Social Work Task Force.
In its final report to ministers, published yesterday, the taskforce said the current career structure for social workers in England was “inconsistent and uncertain”.
It said a national structure would classify the main stages of a career in social work, from student and “probationary” social worker to licensed social worker, senior licensed social worker, then advanced professional, practice educator or social work manager.
National pay scale
The taskforce opted against recommending a separate national pay scale for social workers, but said these more clearly defined levels of skills, responsibilities and roles should be taken into account in local authority pay grading structures. However, it recommended that local authorities review their job evaluation of basic grade social workers to ensure their skills and experience are rewarded fairly.
The report also said social work needs “a culture in which professionals and employers take seriously their responsibility for developing the current and future generation of workers”.
It said the current post-qualifying framework, which has been in effect since 2007, was “not sufficiently coherent, effective or widely understood”, and recommended the creation of a national framework for continuing professional development (CPD).
This would eventually link in with the national career structure.
Ongoing training and learning
Helga Pile, national officer for social workers at Unison and taskforce member, said there had been concern about the loose nature of the requirements for ongoing training and learning in social work.
“I think that’s been frustrating in the sense that it hasn’t driven [social workers’] wish to have more access to CPD,” she said.
The pay recommendations were a blow for Aspect, the trade union which has lobbied for a separate national pay scale for social workers.
Aspect’s social care official, Roger Kline, warned against retaining local government job evaluation schemes, describing them as “fundamentally flawed” because they attach importance to the size of teams and budgets, rather than the skills, knowledge and responsibilities of social workers.
Social Work Task Force conference
“The taskforce may do something about pay for a small number of social workers, but until there is a separate national pay scale for social workers, properly evaluated, little will change,” he said.
The taskforce has said that, if local authorities do not act on its recommendations on pay, the government should consider whether a national pay body is needed.
Places are still available for the Social Work Task Force and Beyond: Rising to the Challenges conference in London on Thursday, 3 December. This event provides the first chance to discuss the findings of the report with key figures, including Phil Hope, care services minister; Baroness Morgan, children’s minister; and Moira Gibb, chair of the taskforce.