All children’s social workers will be assessed against the knowledge and skills statement developed by chief social worker Isabelle Trowler by the end of this parliament (2020) the government has announced.
The assessment and accreditation process of children’s social workers will be overseen by a new body that will be set up to take responsibility for all social work standards, training and regulation of the profession, including adult social work, education secretary Nicky Morgan stated.
In a speech about reforming children’s social work, Morgan announced plans for the new body which would have “a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work, education, training and practice in both children’s and adult’s social work”.
A statement said the new body “will also set standards for training and oversee the roll out of a new assessment and accreditation system for children and family social workers”. It will eventually replace the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as the regulator for social work.
Knowledge and skills statement
Trowler said: “Today’s announcements form the springboard for social work to become recognised as one of the most highly regarded and expert professions in the public service landscape. Such high ambition will be achieved through a dedicated and focused partnership with government so together we provide practice excellence everywhere for the children, families and communities we serve.”
Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults, also welcomed the news of the new body, and called it “significant for the entire profession”.
In a blog post, Romeo said: “It demonstrates support for social workers and the ambition to continue to drive up quality, status and regard for our practice, whilst recognising the vital role we play in improving lives of our most vulnerable children, families and adults.”
“This will enhance a system of regulation which supports a single, unified profession, with an initial qualification giving social workers the freedom to work in many settings and contexts across England and the United Kingdom,” she added.
Romeo also said that the new body will provide independent validation for the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment for social workers working with adults, “which complements the accreditation approach for statutory child and family frontline practitioners”.
New arrangements to support a national accreditation for Best Interest Assessor and Approved Mental Health Professional roles should also be welcomed, Romeo added.
Not a voice for the profession
The announcement of the new body comes six months after The College of Social Work – an organisation set up to raise the standards and profile of social work – closed due to lack of funds, a move precipitated by the government’s decision to stop funding it. The new body differs from the College in not having a remit to provide a voice for the profession and will take on functions that the College never held, such as regulation.
In a wide-ranging speech, Morgan said: “The new body will have a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work education, training and practice in both children’s and adults’ services.
“It will set standards for training as well as overseeing the rollout of the new assessment and accreditation system for children and family social workers. This will happen as soon as possible,” she said.
She added: “And let me be clear, we don’t need more quangos, or more bureaucracy – we need a body that will genuinely uphold rigorous professional standards.”
Morgan, in a letter to Parliament, said the government would try “to bring forward any necessary legislation when parliamentary business allows”.
The HCPC, the current social work regulator, said it was “very surprised” by the announcement.
A spokesperson said: “We are an efficient and effective regulator with robust regulatory processes and standards for conduct, education and professional skills. We will continue to fulfil our primary aim of public protection by regulating the 16 health and care professions on our Register”.
He added: “We look forward to seeing the detail of this decision and will work closely with Government as they bring forward any necessary legislation to facilitate this change.”
Other measures announced today:
- Funding for Frontline to expand its fast-track training programme for children’s social workers and a further cohort of the Step Up to Social Work fast-track scheme, between them training 3,000 people over the next five years.
- A new ‘What Works Centre’ for social workers, with up to £20 million available to help social workers learn from best practice.
- An urgent review of local safeguarding children’s boards, led by former Association of Directors of Children’s Services president Alan Wood.
- Three more councils – Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Islington – to receive “academy-style freedoms” to develop new systems of delivering social care and new ways of working with children and families.