Government approves ‘temporary’ fix to best interests assessor training dilemma

College of Social Work endorsement scheme will be used as vehicle to approve new providers wanting to set up BIA courses until January 2016

A best interests assessment form

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has approved a scheme to vet and approve new best interests assessor (BIA) training courses on a ‘temporary basis’.

The scheme, which has been devised by The College of Social Work, will scrutinise the quality of new BIA training courses. It is designed to boost the number of courses on offer by plugging a gap in the process for approving training providers that opened up after the closure of former social care regulator the General Social Care Council (GSCC) in 2012.

The problem triggered by GSCC’s closure

BIA courses can only be delivered by a list of training providers approved by the health secretary. This function had been devolved to the GSCC and had not been reassigned following the regulator’s closure.

Hunt has now approved the College’s endorsement scheme as a vehicle for approving new courses. Courses that have already been GSCC approved will not be forced to be scrutinised by the College scheme but can voluntarily take part.

BIAs, who are often social workers, play a crucial role under the Deprivation of liberty safeguards (Dols), in deciding whether people have been deprived of their liberty in care homes or hospital and whether this in their best interests.

An interim solution

The College endorsement scheme will be in place until at least January 2016. Community Care understands that the government sees the move as an interim solution while it waits for the outcome of a review of the Dols by the Law Commission. The review will publish a consultation paper in summer 2015 and a final report in 2017.

The Law Commission review was triggered by the impact of a Supreme Court ruling in March that effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care. The court ruling has led to a nine-fold surge in Dols referrals and seen local authorities scrambling to train-up more social workers as BIAs.

News of the endorsement scheme is likely to be welcomed by providers that have been frustrated by having no vehicle to get new BIA courses approved. However, the fact that GSCC approved courses will not have to be assessed by the scheme means it is unlikely to address concerns that the GSCC approval process is out-of-date and the quality of courses too inconsistent due to a lack of oversight nationally.

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