Social workers must not be overworked, orders reform board

Employers are being urged to ensure social workers are not overworked and receive regular supervision in the latest proposals from the Social Work Reform Board.

The government reiterated its backing for the reform board’s plans, and promised “significant funding” would be provided to implement them with an announcement due in the New Year.

A progress report published today, Building a Safe and Confident Future: One Year On, gives details of the reform board’s plans to overhaul the social work profession in England. This includes reforms to social work education, a new continuing professional development framework, professional standards, and new rules for employers setting out minimum requirements for working conditions.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton said: “I welcome the Social Work Reform Board’s proposals which are an important step for social workers to gain the status and respect they so rightly deserve. We are committed to making a real difference to frontline social work and to implementing the Social Work Reform Board’s recommendations. That is why in the New Year we will be announcing significant funding to implement the reforms and Professor Munro’s recommendations to improve child protection.”

The report said that pressures on frontline social workers had not reduced during the first year of the Social Work Reform Board’s existence, with problems remaining in high vacancy rates, poor supervision, IT systems and lack of face-to-face time with families. The reform board’s chair, Moira Gibb, admitted in her foreword that there was “no magic bullet” but called on the sector to pull together to deliver an effective and sustainable reform system.

The report received a mixed response from the sector; praise from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services was balanced by criticism from the British Association of Social Workers. BASW even asked for its name to be removed from the list of organisations supporting the report.

Although the association will remain a member of the reform board, BASW’s chief executive Hilton Dawson said the outlined strategy lacked “any real teeth”.

“The recommendations to raise employer standards in the report are essential but there is no mechanism for enforcing them, so how will they be implemented?” he said.

“Employers don’t have to sign up to these and social workers have no power if they aren’t met. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that this is yet another report that will gather dust on a shelf while social work and the people who use our services continue to suffer.”

However, Adass spokesperson Jo Cleary said the reform board had “led the way in helping us add new shape and vigour to social work with adults”.

She urged directors of adult services throughout England to use the “health check” recommended by the reform board.

Read our special report on what the Social Work Reform Board proposals means for the profession’s future. Includes podcast with reform board chair Moira Gibb.

Email the reform board

What do you think? Join the debate on the reform board report on CareSpace 

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