GSCC sets out new system for regulating social work degrees

Universities in England providing the social work degree face a “traffic-light” system of regulation under plans set out by the General Social Care Council.

Courses will be rated as green, amber or red. Red ratings will trigger an automatic inspection from officials, while and amber tage mean the institution will receive a formal notification of concern, requiring them to provide an explanation within two weeks.

Academics supported the GSCC’s scheme, due to come into effect as part of its annual monitoring system in February, which follows the regulator’s policy of publishing university inspection reports, introduced last year.

Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, and Jackie Rafferty, director of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Social Policy and Social Work (SWAP), said in a joint statement that the risk assessment system “has the potential to help to facilitate a more proportionate and developmental approach to the regulation of initial social work education”.

However, they added: “It is vital that the criteria are developed collaboratively and that the approach taken is not exclusively ‘shame and blame’ orientated, but is focused on development, peer review and dialogue.”

The government announced last summer that the GSCC would be abolished by 2012 as part of efforts to reduce spending on quangos. Responsibility for the regulation of social workers in England, including the approval of social work degree courses, will be transferred to the Health Professions Council.

It is not known whether the HPC will adopt the GSCC’s model for regulating social work degree courses, but Marc Seale, chief executive of the HPC, in an interview with Community Care last year questioned whether social work students would need to register.

Asked why a new regulation system was being introduced despite the forthcoming closure, a GSCC spokesperson said the scheme had been under development prior to the government announcement.

The spokesperson added: “The outcomes of our monitoring process for most HEIs [higher education institutions] will be available on our website from April 2011 and will identify the current red/amber/green status of the HEI. Thereafter, the web site will be updated as and when there is any change in status or information arising from our rolling monitoring process and any regulatory interventions.”

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