by Edward Timpson
I have met many inspirational people through my work as minister for vulnerable children and families.
From foster carers who open their homes to vulnerable young people. To families, like my own parents, who care for children who face unimaginable obstacles, to young people who tirelessly care for their loved ones at an impossibly tender age. I also regularly meet children whose lives have been transformed by our social care system.
Behind all of these heartening stories are the social workers who make them a reality. They are there at the most difficult and distressing times, and make decisions every day that improve lives and turn adversity into opportunity.
Yet despite this fantastic work, all too often the public only becomes aware of the important work of social workers when something goes wrong.
As a Government, we’re working hard to make this a country that works for everyone, and social work is at the heart of making ours a fairer society. So we know we need to make social work a career that many more people will aspire to join. That’s why we’re supporting the recruitment and training of social workers so they have the skills they need for this important job, investing over £800 million in bursaries and in programmes such as Frontline and Step Up, helping us to attract bright new talent into the profession. It’s also what lies behind our plans to introduce a new bespoke regulator, Social Work England, designed to raise the status and standards we all want to see.
Yet we know there are challenges – with rising demand for social work services and, as the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s report suggests today, in some places staff shortages, a high turnover and heavy caseloads.
However, our reforms are set up to help continue to change this picture.
Passion and Expertise
The Children and Social Work Bill is going through its final Parliamentary stages and will strengthen protections for the most vulnerable children. Our new What Works Centre for children’s social care will enable social workers from across the country to learn from one another and share best practice.
Just yesterday I announced a further £36 million to fund 11 projects as part of the Innovation Programme. This fund is harnessing the passion and expertise of those who care for children, giving professionals like social workers the freedom to develop new and innovative ways of working that will make a real difference to children’s lives.
We are investing in the professional development of social workers through our National Assessment and Accreditation System. This will introduce a practice-based career pathway, putting the focus on quality practice as well as motivating social workers to invest in activities that will develop social work practice that meets the high standards expected. Many of you reading this will have fed into the consultation we’ve recently held on this and we’re looking at all these responses carefully.
Change on this scale takes time and we’re committed to working with the profession to see it through, so as to make this the best career it can possibly be. We want all young people to be able to go as far as their talents will take them, and part of that is making sure childhood is a happy and safe time in their lives – no matter what their background or where they are growing up. On World Social Work Day let’s celebrate the unsung heroes who are already working today – and every day – to make sure this is the reality for every child.
Edward Timpson is the minster for vulnerable children and families.