The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has welcomed the government’s reversal on its plan to create a new social work regulator under its direct control.
Ministers planned to move the job of regulating social work out of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and into an executive agency that would give central government more direct influence over social work regulation.
The proposal met strong opposition from social work organisations and would have marked a significant change from the HCPC, which answers to Parliament not ministers.
But last week, children’s minister Edward Timpson announced that the new regulator would be “independent”.
Ruth Allen, the chief executive of BASW, said she was pleased the government had listened to the sector and now committed itself creating an independent regulator.
“From the outset we have been absolutely clear that the need for a change was incontrovertible, but it wasn’t acceptable to create an executive agency without independence,” said Allen.
“So the decision is obviously very pleasing and we just hope that it might signal a bit of a change in terms of government being prepared to listen to the sector on other matters.”
Dave Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, also welcomed the move.
“We are pleased that the new regulatory body for social work will be independent,” he said. “It is important for the profession that decisions on things such as a social worker’s fitness to practice are made at arm’s length from government.
While BASW welcomed the development Allen said questions remain over how independent the new regulator will be from central government.
“We are still concerned about its level of independence,” said Allen. “It needs to have clear accountability to Parliament as a whole and that needs to be explicit.”
She said BASW hoped the new regulator would learn the lessons from both the HCPC and its predecessor, the General Social Care Council, and be “much more fit for practice, particularly around the post-qualifying framework”.
Hill added that while the Department for Education is leading on the new regulator’s development, it is important that the Department of Health remains involved.
“It makes sense that the Department for Education takes this forward as it links to the wider social work reform agenda,” he said. “However, we know that good social work with adults helps children too so close links between the Department for Education and the Department of Health will be crucial to raising the standing and status of the social work profession as a whole.”