Government pledges ‘comprehensive’ continuing professional development framework for social workers

Announcement comes as Department of Health issues update of strategy to improve lives of people with autism

The government is to produce a ‘comprehensive’ continuing professional development framework for social workers in response to two recent reviews into social work education.

The announcement came in the Department of Health’s update of the 2010 autism strategy, published today, which sets out how it plans to take forward the strategy’s aims of improving the life chances of adults with the condition.

The DH and Department for Education, which is responsible for children’s social care, are yet to respond to the reviews into social work education by David Croisdale-Appleby and Martin Narey, published in February.

However, the autism strategy update, Think Autism, said: “As part of DH’s response to the reviews of social work education by Professor Croisdale-Appleby and Sir Martin Narey, we will be commissioning the scoping and development of a comprehensive continuing professional development (CPD) framework for social workers. One of the early priorities will be the development of CPD materials to improve the knowledge and skills of social workers working with vulnerable people with autism.”

This specifically responds to and accepts one of Croisdale-Appleby’s key recommendations. He also said the framework should include requiring newly-qualified social workers to pass an initial probationary year to obtain their ‘licence to practise’ and ensuring experienced practitioners have their competence tested every five years through a process of ‘revalidation’. It is not clear whether the government will accept either of these proposals, however.

Autism strategy revamp

The update on the autism strategy follows a period of consultation with people with autism, families and professionals. It retains the five key goals of the original strategy – improving autism awareness, diagnosis, access to care and support, work opportunities and commissioning – and sets 15 priorities for improvement.

As set out in the original strategy, and its accompanying statutory guidance, councils and care providers will be expected to ensure that all staff have basic autism awareness training and those whose role has a direct impact on adults with autism should have specialist training. This will be set out in updated statutory guidance due by the end of the year. E-learning modules produced for the original strategy by the British Psychological Society to train up staff from different settings will be updated by next March, said the DH.

Today’s update also pointed to regulations under the Care Bill that will require people undertaking a community care assessment to have suitable skills and knowledge in the area in which they are undertaking the assessment, such as autism. Where they do not have this knowledge, the regulations will require them to contact someone who does.

The DH also said commissioners needed to consider whether they should ensure the provision of a range of low-level services for adults with autism in their areas, particularly those who do not meet eligibility criteria for social care.

It said this should include low-level interpersonal support, such as buddying schemes, which have “enabled adults with autism

to participate in different social and leisure activities, and promoted social inclusion and wellbeing”.

Possible research into services for ineligible clients

To support this, the DH has made available a £4.5m autism innovation fund, to enable commissioners to develop services such as these. It also announced it would explore the feasibility of researching the effectiveness of low-level interventions for adults with autism who are not eligibility for care.

In the run-up to the publication of the update, the National Autistic Society ran a campaign, Push for Action, urging improvements in the design and implementation of the strategy.

Chief executive Mark Lever said: “While welcoming the new adult autism strategy, the National Autistic Society knows that this will only make a difference to people with autism and their families if local authorities and health services establish the best possible plans for local services, and if we in the autism community and the general public help create communities where adults with autism feel understood and can live the life they choose.”

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