Pilots that ‘free social workers from council control’ extended

Adult social work practice pilots in England will be able to carry on providing services until 2014, the government has announced.

The Department of Health (DH) has announced an extension to its controversial adult social work practice pilot scheme, which allows practitioners to provide services independently of councils.

The seven social worker-led pilot organisations were set up in the summer of 2011, amid concerns that the scheme would lead to the fragmentation of adult services. They were due to run for two years, but after consulting councils and the Social Care Institute for Excellence, the DH has decided to extend the pilots until the end of March 2014, when an independent evaluation will be published. The extension is subject to parliamentary approval.

The seven projects are:

  • Birmingham Council, whose pilot provides the full range of social work tasks for people with physical disabilities and long term conditions.
  • London Borough of Lambeth, where the pilot provides for all adults either funding their own care or having needs below the Fair Access to Care Services threshold.
  • North East Lincolnshire Care Plus Trust, which targets older people, including those with mental health problems and adults with physical, sensory or learning disabilities.
  • Shropshire Council, which provides for older people, people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities.
  • Stoke Council, whose pilot supports people with long-term neurological conditions.
  • Suffolk Council, where the pilot supports adults who are deaf, visually impaired or who have dual sensory loss.
  • Surrey Council, which is caring for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

When they were announced, the government said it expected the pilots to provide social workers with more job satisfaction and control over their day-to-day practice, as well as better services for users.

However, a recent evaluation of the children’s social work practice pilots found that only three of the five pilots reported lower turnover of staff and little discernible difference in the quality of relationships between social workers and children.

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