Directors have warned against using a legally binding code of practice for social work employers as a “one size fits all” solution to the problems facing frontline teams.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services rejected calls from unions for the government to honour its pledge to introduce mandatory standards for support to social workers.
Ministers have ordered a review of the General Social Care Council’s code for employers, along with the workers’ code, as part of the Social Work Reform Programme for England.
However, 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”.
Instead, it is asking employers across England to complete “health checks” of social work departments in 2010-11, which will lead to national standards for employers.
Dave Hill, ADCS policy lead on social work reform, said it was essential that employers should retain flexibility for local decision making within their statutory responsibilities.
“This is why we are cautious about a mandatory, ‘one size fits all’, code of practice for employers.”
Hill said the social care sector had suffered from a fragmented landscape of national workforce bodies.
“It would be irresponsible for one of these bodies to push ahead with changes to the regulatory framework without reference to these wider discussions and would risk continuing to fragment the infrastructure supporting social work,” he said.
Hill added that any guidance on providing support for practitioners should be developed through existing reference groups “so that social workers, their managers and employers can agree on what is reasonable through constructive dialogue”.
The GSCC’s code for employers was introduced in 2002 setting out requirements for effective management, supervision, and provision of training for social care workers.
Earlier this week, the government announced that the GSCC should become purely focused on regulating social work with its social care responsibilities transferred to another body, under proposals outlined in the social care White Paper.