The Health and Care Professions Council has flagged the likely risk of the government being unable to transfer social workers to a new regulator by September next year.
Documents prepared for a HCPC council meeting state that “delay is expected” on the plan to move social workers to Social Work England by the end of September 2018, and the HCPC’s risk register warns of a ‘high’ risk that the government’s “ambitious timetable” will cause the project to fail.
That risk was rated as ‘medium’ in January. The risk of Brexit hampering the transfer by reducing the time government advisers have to work on the project has also been escalated from ‘low’ to ‘high’.
Concerns also surround the amount of parliamentary time available, with the government still to lay the secondary legislation needed to underpin Social Work England’s work.
A Department for Education spokesperson told Community Care an update on plans for Social Work England would be announced in due course. The spokesperson declined to say if the estimated £16m cost of the project would rise.
Both the HCPC and the DfE said they were committed to working together to ensure a safe and smooth transfer.
The move to Social Work England marks the second time social workers have switched regulator in recent years. The government scrapped the General Social Care Council in 2012 and moved social work into the HCPC’s remit. That transfer took two years and cost £19.2m, £7m more than the government estimated.
Marc Seale, the HCPC’s chief executive, told Community Care that the Social Work England project was “fundamentally” different because the GSCC was transferring functions to an existing regulator, with an established fitness to practise and registration infrastructure, rather than an entirely new body.
He said the HCPC would work closely with DfE and other stakeholders on the transfer and still assumed the department wanted a September 2018 move.
“The issue is that if this is a fixed timetable and time is slipping away, then getting it done in a shorter period is going to be more challenging.
“You can always do things quickly but it costs more money and if you do things too quickly it increases the risk. So [on the risk register] we’re just highlighting it from our perspective.
“But we haven’t sat down with the other side [Social Work England], because there’s currently no other side to sit down with. Our position is that we want the new regulator to be a success.”
In a report published last week, the Professional Standards Authority, the umbrella body for regulators, raised concerns that the decision to set up a dedicated social work regulator was out of step with wider government policy to consolidate the number of health and care regulators.
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