Unions and employers to start talks on career development

Employers are to open talks with unions next week on a national career development framework for social workers in England.

The Local Government Employers and the three major unions – Unite, Unison and GMB – will hold its first meeting on 4 February to discuss ways of tackling the problem of experienced professionals leaving the frontline in search of better salaries.

The working group will submit a list of proposals to the National Joint Council, which determines pay and conditions for local government workers, by the end of March.

The final report of the Social Work Task Force recommended a “single, nationally recognised career structure” – a key aspect of the ongoing reform programme designed to transform the quality and status of the profession.

The report concluded that “social work as a career and profession is still subject to too much inconsistency and uncertainty” with no recognised route for keeping experienced practitioners in frontline practice.

Despite rejecting calls for a national pay grade for social workers, the taskforce recommended the introduction of a new “advanced professional” role on a par with practice educators and social work managers alongside a new framework for continuing professional development.

Jon Sutcliffe, from the Local Government Employers, defended the current use of local government job evaluation schemes despite claims from unions that they were unsuited to skilled professions such as social work.

“I don’t think anyone’s trying to pretend there aren’t problems in some local authorities but it’s important that councils have the flexibility to adjust to local labour markets,” he said.

Children’s minister Delyth Morgan welcomed the news of the working group.

“It is vital that employers and unions recommend how to achieve a fair and appropriate pay structure,” she said.

Three other working groups have also been established to drive through the reforms recommended by the Social Work Task Force.

They are:

  • Social Work Reform Board, chaired by Moira Gibb, who chaired the taskforce, overseeing the entire programme of reform; involving employers, unions and professional associations, government departments, national workforce bodies and academics. First meeting took place on 18 January.
  • National College Development Group, convened by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, to assist in the establishment of a national college of social work; involving unions, professional associations, employers and academics. First meeting took place on 26 January.
  • Social Work Education Working Group, overseeing reforms to social work training, involving academics, workforce development professionals, employers, students and service users. First meeting due to take place on 4 February.

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