Government ‘best placed’ to improve social work, says minister

Schools minister says lack of a professional body for social workers means education secretary is in 'best position' to drive improvements

Department for Education

The government is best placed to set and assess social workers against a new range of “improvement standards” for the profession, the schools minister has claimed.

Lord Nash said social workers lacked a professional body capable of leading the scale of improvements needed to work with children and families. He said almost one in four councils inspected under Ofsted’s single inspection framework was rated ‘inadequate’.

“In the light of that startling statistic, it is critical that the ​Secretary of State is able to bring forward improvement activity that she believes will help raise the standard of social work practice by making clear what standards are expected of children and family social workers and assessing social workers against those improvement standards,” he said.

“In other professions, we might expect a professional body to undertake that work but, for now at least, there is no such body for social workers.”

The minister was speaking at a House of Lords debate on the Children and Social Work Bill last week. Peers passed a government amendment to the legislation that will give the education secretary powers to set and assess practitioners against “improvement standards”.

Nash said these standards will be distinct from the professional standards social workers are required to meet for registration and will instead go “over and above” to define specialist standards of practice, including requirements for the accreditation and assessment system for children’s social workers planned by the Department for Education.

The government originally planned for improvement work, including accreditation, to be overseen by Social Work England – a new regulator being set up next year. But ministers have decided to take direct control of the improvement standards after bowing to pressure to establish Social Work England as an independent, rather than government-run, body.

“With the distinct regulatory functions that Social Work England will rightly have, we believe the Secretary of State is in the best position to drive this improvement forward,” said Nash. “Indeed, she is the only person who can. In doing so, she will, of course, want to work exceptionally closely with the social work profession.”

Last November, children’s minister Edward Timpson invited social workers to submit proposals on how a sector-led professional body could complement Social Work England’s work.

Timpson’s intervention came just a year after The College of Social Work, a professional body established by the government, closed due to a lack of funds. The College’s closure was partly triggered by ministers’ refusal to hand the organisation more functions, including a £2m contract to develop an accreditation system for children’s social workers.

The accreditation plans have been met with concern from sector bodies, including the British Association of Social Workers. A consultation on the scheme’s roll out closed last month. Nash said the government received almost 400 responses.

“There is a ​great deal of support for the aims of the new system but there was a wide range of comments about how its rollout can happen in a way that minimises disruption to the social work workforce. We are considering these comments carefully, and ministers will announce their decisions on the way forward later this year,” he said.

The Children and Social Work Bill has almost completed its passage through parliament and will be rubber-stamped when the Queen grants the legislation Royal Assent.

More from Community Care

12 Responses to Government ‘best placed’ to improve social work, says minister

  1. Maharg April 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    in line with Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent’s opinion of consultation,regarding the new bypass
    I found the plan in the basement buried in the case with soft peat,with the words beware of the badger written on the lid ”

    consultation, is nice to know that they are in charge of our destiny Royal College of nurses, general medical Council, and now a government autocracy. The lease we know where we can blame the failings in the future rather than on the social worker, who left the child, or took the child away.

    let’s hope they can do a better job than the last several that have been imposed to entrust the standard

  2. Maharg April 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    The crystal ball intervention outcomes, see community care report, 10th of April.
    Council failing to meet ‘basic social work standards’, finds Ofsted

    and read the responses.

  3. David Steare April 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    Yes, I suppose 30 years working as a venture capitalist qualfies Lord Nash, and working as an accountant qualifies Justine Greening to know what is needed to improve social work…

  4. A Man called Horse April 12, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

    Totally shameful starts from the view that Social workers don’t know their jobs and must be overseen by others who know more than they do. This Tory Government is a disgrace to civilisation. The cuts to welfare and their housing policies creating poverty and homelessness. How are Social workers to do their job when families are being destroyed by disgusting social policies? More regulation will not help or stop the deaths of children. Austerity is the driving force for more misery and more child deaths, blaming Social Workers is a national sport for media and Tory Politicuans. This Government cares not what Social Wirkers say is the problem and as this article shows they intend to ignore your views with ever more punative and draconian Training regimes. If only they would apply such microscopic intervention in the selection and training for MPs if they did this we wouldn’t have such a shower of shit that passes for a Government

  5. Sabine April 13, 2017 at 12:18 am #

    Well that means in all honesty “good night Vienna” and I will definitely get that sinking feeling.

  6. James Webb April 13, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Lord Nash’s comments seem the equivalent of chopping someone’s legs off and then saying they can’t run – they destroyed the College of Social work because the truth is they do not want Social Workers to have a powerful independent professional body – they would not create the GMC or the RCN today as these bodies are inconvenient to those who know everything because they made money

  7. Longtime SW April 13, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    Venture capitalist and an accountant running things?

    Not about privatisation of what are supposed to be our public services then.

    Only asking!

  8. Jules April 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    The governement should maybe consider why Social Work is struggling to achieve its aims!Look within! The constant cuts within the community, the closure of the Social Work College, the notion that quality social workers can be provided through a scheme such as Frontline, that is no longer using an academic structure or support to train these people. The government have no experience of managing Social Workers or the understanding or skills in which to bring about the change they state is required! Do the government consider the cuts that they continue to make may have an impact on the quality of care and support that is needed by sociaty? I have always been proud to be a social worker, the voice of people, but to be honest Im glad that im at the end of my career, with such short sighted visionaries called the governemnt at the helm of my profession.

  9. Liz Timms April 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    I can understand the Minister’s argument. There is a certain basic logic there. If the government decides what social work is to be then they are, logically, in the best position to decide whether the standards required are being met to meet the goals that they have set. But the argument is flawed by virtue of the absence of professional social work knowledge, skill and understanding and experience of ministers. Social workers might support his case if only he and other members of the government were qualified or even well enough professionally informed to make the assessment. Or even if he were humble enough to engage in discussions with social workers and their professional association. And then of course there is the issue of what good professional practice and the agencies delivering it require from the government in order to deliver an adequate professional service for children and families.. Not to mention the need to reverse the pattern of austerity that makes life harder for impoverished families and swells the numbers seeking help. Please minister, do not tell my colleagues how to do the job that you and your colleagues regularly undermine.

  10. Katie Politico April 14, 2017 at 7:37 am #

    This represents more cynical undermining of children’s social workers by central government which omits the context of the annihilation of local authorities through massive funding cuts and an implicit campaign of castigation for never being good enough. It will culminate in the removal of all government funding in 2020. It is no coincidence that an increasing number of children’s services departments are being constructed by Ofsted as inadequate. The only conclusion to draw is that every aspect of children’s services will be up for grabs by the private and so-called charitable sector. The forthcoming Children and Social Work bill is to enable this transfer of services. The likes of G4S and Virgin Care, however, will not want to take responsibility when things go wrong or to have their profits compromised by the cost. Individual social workers will therefore be held criminally responsible in these circumstances. No doubt ministers have plenty of friends and business associates already eyeing the potential for profit to be stashed in offshore companies leaving us to fund these companies through taxation. Of course the accreditation of social workers will be undertaken directly by the Secretary of State, but through yet another private company in which ministers will have a business interest. It makes perfect sense in terms of the profits to be made from ordinary tax payers. The response needs to be through our unions but to be really effective unions require a massively increased membership otherwise expect further increased caseloads, reduced holiday and sick pay and criminalisation when things go wrong, which they do. The privatisation of public services causes suffering as evidenced by public transport and utility providers to name but two privatisations that have led to exorbitant cost and poorer service. I implore all social workers to join a relevant union to fight this degradation of children’s services and the impact it will have on already suffering families.

  11. Kent social worker April 17, 2017 at 2:48 am #

    As I have said before, the so-called experts in Ofsted are there to ensure that social work standards are reported as not being met in a high proportion of local authorities to serve governmental needs – the drip drip approach that will ‘demonstrate ‘ that most social workers nationally cannot meet basic standards.

    So isn’t it obvious (?) that the drivers who are appointed by our shambles of a government will not have a social work qualification because that’s not needed is it? Or rather this is what the public will be led to believe.

    It’s blatant control of a solid profession, to ensure that we remain as not just servants of the state, but frankly we are being regarded as nothing more than slaves. Who else would work evenings and weekends to ensure that amongst other tasks, the court report or assessment is completed in our own time, as heavy caseloads, and ensuring children are safe in most cases prevent us from working 37 hours a week that is expected.

    The Tory government agendas see to it that our honourable profession is run by bureaucrats who serve the government’s hidden agenda which makes social workers their scapegoats for blame in respect of their appalling government policies that actually place children at risk.

    Shouldn’t Eileen Munro be standing up for social workers and slamming this proposed action, or has she become so entwined in her high profile status that she has removed herself from grass roots values??

    • Andrew April 18, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

      Do you mean Isabelle Trowler rather than Eileen Munro by any chance?
      Don’t hold your breathe, our Chief Social Worker hasn’t stood up to her political masters once since being appointed.