Details of two new assessed and accredited management roles in children’s social work have been published for consultation.
The knowledge and skills statements for the practice supervisor and practice leader statuses have been devised by the consortium led by consultancy firm KPMG and including the University of Leeds and the chief social worker’s former company, Morning Lane Associates.
The consortium is also developing the assessment process for practice supervisors and leaders as well as the approved child and family practitioner status for frontline practitioners which is currently being trialled.
They proposed knowledge and skills statements were announced by the chief social worker for children and families, Isabelle Trowler, who described them as “part of a radical shift towards a practice-focused system”.
Practice leader role clarified
Practice leaders will be “qualified social workers with day-to-day operational responsibility across the whole local system for child and family social work practice,” the consultation documents state.
“Most usually this is referred to as the assistant director of children’s social care or director of family services.”
When the three levels of accreditation were first announced, principal social workers wondered if practice leadership would encompass their role. However, the new standards do not refer to principal social workers (PSWs), nor do they mention the Professional Capabilities Framework, devised by the Social Work Reform Board as a skills framework for all levels of a social care carer.
Among duties outlined, practice leaders should create sufficient capacity for social workers to “build relationships and undertake effective direct work” with families and children, although there is no specific mention of keeping caseloads under control.
Mandy Nightingale, who is PSW at Essex and chair of the network for child and family PSWs said there had been “a positive step forward” for the profession with these statements as the network had been able to give their views on the standards before the open consultation.
However Nightingale expressed concern about how the accreditation route will work in practice: “In a large authority, these duties are likely to be divided between a number of people. There will need to be a realistic consultation about the detail of assessment and accreditation taking into account the financial constraints on local authorities and our need to constantly innovate to meet demands.”
Practice supervisor role
Practice supervisors will manage and develop individuals and teams within statutory child and family services.
One aspect of the role will be to “provide a practice framework, underpinned by theory and the best evidence, within which practitioners can work effectively”.
However, the government was unable to confirm if such a practice framework would be devised centrally or practice leaders would be able to define their own.
Assessment and future plans
In time, the consultation paper notes, accreditation may be expanded to particular areas of practice, such as permanency planning.
Once the results of the consultation have been analysed the DfE will “work with employers and others on implementation including whether the system should be rolled out on a voluntary or compulsory basis, which social workers it should be applied to, the speed of roll out and other issues”.
Assessment for all levels is likely to include direct observation of practice and a test of critical analysis and decision-making. Online simulation of practice is also expected to form part of the tests.
Trowler said accreditation has a dual aim: “I am determined to ensure that we earn the public’s respect for and confidence in our profession, particularly from the children, young people and families with whom we work.”
The statuses will also act “as a passport towards career progression”.
The consultation is open for responses till 1st September. Results are due to be published in the autumn.