Report into roles and tasks of adult social workers published

Social workers will have new opportunities in a changing world dominated by the personalisation agenda and the recession, according to a delayed report on the future roles of social workers in adult care.

The long-awaited statement was commissioned by the Social Work Task Force, which reported in December, and is intended to clarify the roles of practitioners in adult services.

It was produced by the Department of Health, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the British Association of Social Workers, Skills for Care and the Social Care Association.

It was to have been published a week ago and was announced by care services minister Phil Hope at Skills for Care’s annual conference but an “administrative error” at the Department of Health delayed it.

The statement said social workers needed a “broader set of activities and methodologies” to allow them to address the changing policy context and modern-day social issues and challenges thrown up by the personalisation agenda.

This has involved the transfer of responsibility for assessment and care management from qualified social workers to non-qualified care staff in less complex cases, leading to concerns about the future role of adults’ services practitioners.

However, the statement emphasised that the government’s Putting People First programme, which runs from 2008-11 in England, opens up opportunities for social workers.

It said that, in future, social workers may have an important role to play in working with service users, including self-funders, in areas such as advocacy, brokerage and support planning.

They may also have a stronger role to play in combating disability hate crime as part of a community development role where social workers would promote social cohesion.

The document also suggested strengthening social workers’ role with families to support local authorities in creating “safe, healthy and prosperous communities”.

Career structures would need to be developed and standards of social work education, regulation, practice and supervision raised to meet challenges, the document pointed out. However, it emphasised the importance of support for social workers.

It also said that demand for social work “may rise” in times of recession, particularly in areas such as mental health and adult safeguarding.

Some of these themes are being developed by ADASS, which the document said was putting together advice to help social work directors to commission their workforce.

Bernard Walker, joint chairman of ADASS’s workforce development network, said it was an important and valuable document that recognised the key contribution that social work makes to personalisation.

He said: “There’s no doubt that social work does have a key role to play in the future of adult social care and the document tries to define that. ADASS was very keen to be associated with this as we regard ourselves as having a leadership role within social work.”

BASW said it regarded the document as “something of a boost” to adult social care, in the light of cuts in the profession. Ruth Cartwright, England joint manager at BASW pointed out that the statement gives a timely reminder that demand may rise in a time of recession.

She said: “Social work with adults is going through some troubled times and we need to be strong and assertive in maintaining and developing our status, and this statement should help us to argue our case.”

The statement builds on a generic document on the roles and tasks of social workers published by the GSCC in March 2009.

This was followed by a 14-page statement on the role of children’s social workers produced by the Children’s Workforce Development Council last year.

An action plan on the back of the taskforce’s report is due to be published soon.

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