Employer support for staff ‘must be statutory’

Unions have demanded the government honours a pledge to introduce a legally binding duty on employers to provide high-quality support to social workers....

Unions have demanded the government honours a pledge to introduce a legally binding duty on employers to provide high-quality support to social workers.

The government has ordered a review of the General Social Care Council’s code for employers, along with the social care workers’ code, as part of the Social Work Reform Programme for England.

But the government’s implementation plan for the programme, published last month, made no mention of a commitment announced a year ago to make the employers’ code “statutory for all employers of social workers”.

Unison, which represents 40,000 social workers in the UK, has led calls for it to be made statutory, a move previously accepted by ministers after it was endorsed by Lord Laming’s national child protection review proposed in March 2009.

Helga Pile, the union’s national officer for social workers, said: “It is no good just reviewing the employers’ code without addressing the issue of lack of enforcement. It needs to be made statutory so that employers can be held to account.”

The Social Work Task Force outlined a different method of asking employers to follow a voluntary national standard on the support they provide to social workers, due to be launched in 2013.

Unison’s call was backed by the Social Care Association, which represents around 160 employers, and trade union Aspect.

The General Social Care Council’s code for employers was introduced in 2002 setting out requirements for effective management, supervision, and provision of training for social care workers.

Moira Gibb, chair of the Social Work Reform Board, said the taskforce opted for a collaborative approach rather than enforcing the employers’ code, because “a top-down model has taken us so far”.

“A lot of people said to us you must have something employers have to sign up to. I think inevitably because they haven’t got the resources to something, people get round things,” she said.

Gibb added: “All my experience tells me if people contribute to something they feel more ownership of it.”

The final report of the Social Work Task Force said the government should consider “direct intervention” in local authorities which fail to meet the standard if the voluntary approach does not work.

A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the recommendation from the Social Work Task Force on the employer standards “has changed the context within which we need to look at the employers’ code. The GSCC will review both their codes for social care workers and employers in 2010-11 and the government will then take forward legislation as appropriate.”

Related articles

Reform plans: the full picture

GSCC questions call for specific social work code of practice

GSCC wants code of practice for employers to be mandatory

Expert guide to Lord Laming’s review of child protection

External information

The Government’s Response to Lord Laming: One Year On

General Social Care Council codes of practice

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