The College of Social Work could be given legal rights to demand an audience with sector leaders, care services minister Paul Burstow has confirmed.
In a debate on the Health and Social Care Bill last week, shadow health minister, Emily Thornberry, claimed the College would have no power unless there was a statutory duty on the government, local government, regulators and others to consult with it on relevant policy matters.
Speaking in the House of Commons debate, Burstow rejected her proposal to include a clause to that effect in the Bill as “premature”. But he said: “We would not rule out requiring specific bodies or organisations to consult with and respond to the advice provided by the college of social work, once it has been properly established.”
The British Association of Social Workers, which recently re-branded itself as BASW – the College of Social Work, has been lobbying for the college to gain such powers, but this is the first time the idea has publicly received ministerial backing.
However, Burstow’s comments received a lukewarm response from the interim board of the college of social work currently being developed as part of the wider reform programme in England. Maurice Bates, interim co-chair of the college, said he was “happy to have the discussion”.
But he added: “Our initial view is that the influence of the college will depend on its authority and legitimacy rather than on a statutory duty of consultation with it.”
BASW’s chair Fran Fuller has previously expressed puzzlement at the interim board’s lack of enthusiasm for the proposals.
“This is a fundamental issue about the empowerment of the social work profession,” she said in a statement to members in February.
Burstow said he would consider ways to “enhance and strengthen” the College in the social care White Paper, expected towards the end of this year.
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