The main opposition parties have backed the Social Work Task Force’s recommendations, but say they would go even further if they win next year’s general election. However, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats remain vague as to how the recommendations should be funded.
Tim Loughton, Conservative shadow children’s minister, said: “The taskforce makes some sensible suggestions for improving social work and child protection, many of which we proposed some time ago. Better training and an improved status for the profession are essential to deal with the current crisis.
“But social work also needs a committed public face, so we are disappointed that the taskforce has not recommended the creation of a chief social worker to publicise good practice.”
Loughton called for the inspection regime to be re-examined so that inspections “better reflect the quality of work on the frontline rather than just adherence to the bureaucratic process”.
However, he would not be drawn on whether the Conservatives would provide ring-fenced funding for the proposals.
The Liberal Democrats questioned how Labour would fund the proposed changes.
“Ministers now need to explain where the money will come from,” said Annette Brooke, the Liberal Democrats’ children, young people and families spokesperson. “Without funding, the government’s commitment to these proposals is meaningless.
Tackle the basics
“I think everything in the recommendations has to be done, but the most important thing is that we need to be tackling the basics, tackling the need for well-trained social workers on the frontline.”
Brooke said the Liberal Democrats had hoped to see their suggestion that social workers had work placements in all departments concerned with children’s services as part of their continuous professional development. If in power, she said her party would establish this requirement.
Trade union Aspect called for all three major political parties to supply assurances to ring-fence funding in order to realise the taskforce recommendations.