Fears government agenda is driving Professional Capabilities Framework review

An open letter from a social work academic raises concerns over inadequate consultation amongst frontline staff and practice educators

The PCF which sets out what is expected of social workers at all levels has been transferred to BASW but is not mentioned in discussions around accreditation

The College of Social Work has been accused of letting the government drive the agenda during its review of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).

An open letter by social work academic, Cathy Lloyd, has echoed fears expressed to Community Care by numerous social workers that the review is “minimising” the PCF in favour of the knowledge and skills statements published by the chief social workers.

In her letter Lloyd says she was “dismayed” to find the questions being asked at the review events organised by the College were “both misleading and the wrong way round”. (See box below for Cathy’s full letter)

Consulting frontline staff

A social worker, who attended the event, agreed and said: “Putting together the PCF was a laborious process: meetings of the good and great, along with consultations of frontline staff and practice educators up and down the country.

“The adults’ and children’s knowledge and skills statements have not been through the same rigorous process of consultation. In fact, one member of the audience asked if service users had been consulted on the knowledge and skills statement for children and the answer was ‘no’.

‘Leading’ questions

The social worker, who wished to remain anonymous, added that an online survey to gather individuals’ views, circulated after the event, showed there had been no re-thinking of the questions or methodology of the review, despite social worker and academic disquiet at the “leading” nature of the review event.

Dear Community Care,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the narrow view being taken in the consultation over the Professional Capability Framework (PCF) .

As a practice educator with over 15 years’ experience, I welcomed this review and was pleased to be able to attend the May 15th consultation event in Birmingham.

I was dismayed to find that the questions being asked were both misleading and the wrong way around. This was also the consensus from the majority of participants on this day. The PCF has been developed as a framework for best practice and is sector led and strengths based. I had expected and wanted to discuss and debate: holistic assessment, placements, practice educators and the PCF, learning from others about best practice and taking this back to our programme.

This was definitely not the case at the event I attended. The consultation questions appear to be an attempt to move knowledge and skills statements into centre stage and minimise the use of the PCF.

At present, those of us on the ground have no understanding of how the PCF is being rolled out nationally. How far universities are with using it with students, newly qualified social workers or with local authority engagement? These are questions that would enable us to review where we are and move forward.

I would be keen to hear if others feel similarly and how we work together to have a voice and a forum for this debate and discussion, rather than the fait accompli we were presented with by The College of Social Work


Cathy Lloyd
BA (Hons.) Social Work programme
Ruskin College , Oxford

The PCF is a professional standards framework for social workers, setting out what is expected of them at each stage of their career. It was first published by The College of Social Work in 2010. When the review was announced, the College said recommendations for changes would be published in “early summer”.


The College has held four workshops around the country to gather views and give out information about the consultation. However, the events were reportedly highly oversubscribed and some representative bodies said it was a struggle  to get a place.

Chief executive of The College of Social Work, Annie Hudson said: “Although the introduction of the knowledge and skills statements by the two chief social workers was one of the drivers for the review,  it is important to remember that they have a different purpose from the PCF – the latter is much more wide ranging in scope,  considering the capabilities social workers need at all stages of their careers.

“Our consultation events have been extremely well attended, highlighting the widespread professional support for, and use of the PCF.

“We wanted to provide a range of ways for people to have their say – hence the workshop events alongside the survey.   Unfortunately it has not been possible, due to resources, to hold another workshop but people are invited to send in their comments in to us.”

Short timescales

British Association of Social Workers (BASW) professional officer, Nushra Mansuri said they had concerns over the short timescales, the lack of publicity around the review and the fact the “tick box” questions on the survey did not give room for longer, qualitative responses.

“A member who is an academic confirmed she had heard rumours that the PCF was being reviewed, but that was all. If we did a quick straw poll, most social workers would be clueless.”

A London social worker and practice educator, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she frequently visited the College of Social Work’s website but had not been able to find the survey.

She said it felt like the review was “government driven and not driven by the workers or users of services”.

The consultation runs for 15 days and closes on Wednesday 24thJune.

Social workers can send in their comments regarding the PCF review to the review’s operational lead, Helen Keville: helen.keville@tcsw.org.uk

You can complete the survey and share your feedback on the review here.

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