Final Social Work England standards remove duty to report impact of resources on safe practice

New regulator says move prompted by fears requirement would put too much pressure on practitioners, while fitness to practise rules also tweaked following concerns over prospect of social workers not sitting on panels

Image: Travis

A requirement that social workers must report concerns over resourcing affecting safe practice has been deleted from a final list of professional standards published by Social Work England.

The document, issued yesterday along with rules and standards covering social work education, registration and fitness to practise, contains a number of amendments made in response to a consultation held during the spring. Social Work England is due to take over regulatory duties from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) on 2 December.

The final professional standards include some beefed-up language around promoting social justice, valuing families and communities, respecting dignity and privacy and avoiding conflicts of interest.

A new clause has been added relating to “using assessment skills to respond quickly to dangerous situations and take any necessary protective action”.

Meanwhile the section on professional development has been made more detailed and includes a requirement to incorporate feedback “from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice”.

‘Too much pressure on social workers’

By contrast the segment relating to promoting ethical practice has been shortened and made broader, with the clause covering “resourcing or operational difficulties that might get in the way of safe practice” one of several deleted. Such issues often play a central part in critical Ofsted judgments as well as inquiries where safeguarding systems break down, such as serious case reviews.

Sarah Blackmore, Social Work England’s executive director of standards, said the move came in response to organisations including the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Unison, as well as individual social workers, commenting that the clause put too much pressure on practitioners.

“We thought carefully and we have something in another part of the standards that covers this,” Blackmore said. “If feedback tells us this will put on too much pressure on social workers, let’s take a step back.”

Clause 6.6 of the final standards, which Blackmore said she was referring to, contains the more broad-brush requirement that social workers must “declare to the appropriate authority and Social Work England anything that might affect my ability to do my job competently or may affect my fitness to practise”.

Blackmore added that while not responsible for setting employers’ standards, Social Work England will have a “great lever for influence”, which it would use in the future when the Local Government Association reviews employer standards.

“We will be round that table representing social work, talking about some of the struggles and difficulties social workers are facing, and referencing our standards and the work employers will need to do to support social worker to meet those standards,” she said.

Fitness to practise tweaks

Fitness to practise rules, meanwhile, have been tweaked in response to concerns raised by unions, BASW and others around the possibility of convening panels containing no social workers, and holding some hearings without legal experts.

The rules now stipulate that panels must contain at least one lay person and one registered social worker, with an option for interim or review hearings to take place without legal adjudication or advice deleted.

Understand Social Work England’s plans

Practitioners can get an understanding of Social Work England’s plans for the profession by attending its session at this year’s Community Care Live.

The regulator will explain its plans for registration, fitness to practise and professional and educational standards at the event in London, from 15-16 October.

Register now for your free place, which gives you access to over 30 seminars on the most pressing issues in social work practice.

Elsewhere the requirement for all social work students to undertake at least one statutory placement has been retained, as have proposals that social workers must re-register annually.

Blackmore said that ensuring enough placements are made available will be “something for the whole system to get to grips with” and that the regulator’s new regional engagement leads will play a key part in gathering statistical and anecdotal evidence that will enable it to argue for change if necessary.

Plain-English documentation

A report on the consultation process issued by Social Work England said that further guidance documentation would be issued in due course.

It added that publishing plain-English explanations of the fitness to practise process would be “helpful”. Blackmore  said these were in the pipeline but that no publication time-frame had been set.

The report said the consultation received 590 responses, including online and at six events around the country. Just over 200 individual children’s and adults’ social workers submitted online contributions.

A number of practitioners’ comments included in the report featured calls for more clarity around their role, both in terms of furthering public understanding and in terms of reducing the complexity of professional frameworks.

“We understand that the landscape of standards for social work is considered crowded and we will work with relevant social work organisations to produce a map,” the document said in response.

Community Care has approached a number of organisations that responded to Social Work England’s consultation and will add their feedback on the final standards as we get it.

More from Community Care

7 Responses to Final Social Work England standards remove duty to report impact of resources on safe practice

  1. E M ARMSTRONG-PERLMAN August 2, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

    My concern is what are the obligations incumbent on child care professionals when they encounter instances of unjustified removals of children to strangers on the grounds of hotline referrals without investigation of allegations.
    Is it acceptable for staff to bypass registering emotional and educational decline of children and deny SEN provision.
    I am interested in statutory .obligations to prevent cover up of institutional abuse. How can such abuse as in Nottingham persist without professionals being afraid to speak out.
    I have a paper trail of documentation which could provide detailed evidence of how unjustified attachment ruptures of small children lead to long term phobias and fear of the outside world. The children are also aware of their symptoms not being treated appropriately so single event trauma becomes complex trauma- a profound disillusion and lack of trust in care

  2. sabine August 2, 2019 at 2:05 pm #

    It so becomes clear to whose tune social work England are dancing. Disgusting

  3. Chris Sterry August 2, 2019 at 3:32 pm #

    I am dismayed thatthe ‘requirement that social workers must report concerns over resourcing affecting safe practice has been deleted from a final list of professional standards published by Social Work England’, especially in the current climate where resourses are being cut in a number of ways.

    There is less money due to austerity cuts to Local Government being allocated to Social Care.

    There are less Social Workers available in some respects due to these cuts, but also the workload

    In some authorities Social Workers are, in effect, not being allowed to be Social Workers, in some degree, in reverse to their training

    Some Social Workers are conducting Needs Assessments based on the money available to provide for the needs of persons being assessed, rather on tne full needs required and then look at funding. Where this is being done the full costs relating to needs will not be known, should the required funding be eventually provided. This would mean the need for further assessment, maybe more than the usual yearly, if that is being adhered to, creating more expense. What should be done is a persons record should be marked that full needs cover could not be provided due to costs restraints.

    I am also aware that some Social Workers are not supporting persons in need of care and there family where the care workers allocated and may be the Service provider are not conducting care in accordance with safeguarding practice, and the application of respect and dignity. Being the Care Worker appears to be in charge and doing what they wish, in many instances against the Support Plan and certainly against the wishes of the person in need of care and may be family members

    I appeciate that the majority Social Workers are working to the best of their ability in very difficult circumstances, but the person in need of care should be paramount.

    • Jules August 6, 2019 at 5:58 am #

      I wonder who were the SWs who said the requirement to raise the issue of resources is pressuring staff? Whilst at the same time increasing to yearly reregistration. I don’t suppose this is in any way a device to extract more money from us, to pay people to police us?0

  4. Eco-Social Worker August 6, 2019 at 8:38 am #

    I guess this had to go. The issue of a ‘duty’ raised the risk that in the event of a scandal caused by lack of resources, the Social Worker involved could be ‘blamed’ for not reporting this to the authorities.

    In practise, with funding the way it is, the only way we could have carried out this duty would have been to send a standard letter to Social Work England every day you turn up for work.

  5. sw August 6, 2019 at 6:40 pm #

    Its good it has been removed because if it was one of the factor to take into consideration for the HCPC fitness to practice issues it was clearly ineffective or at best non existent.

    The referrals to HCPC are made by the managers against their workers; would the managers admit that it was the lack of resource that contributed to competence/fitness to practice issue – they wouldn’t otherwise they would not have reported that worker to HCPC.

    That is good riddance of one hypocrisy.

    However, the managers who are managing resource if they are reported by some external agency might not be able to use that as an excuse but in any case the HCPC is biased with the management and whatever reasons/mitigating circumstances or any review of the policy the management puts forward to support that manager would be accepted by the HCPC without any validation/conformation or even overseeing whether what has been proposed ever followed meaningfully – NO.

    HCPC is biased and they go after for lone workers; not powerful managers/management.

    Lets hope the other regulatory body may cause the social workers less trauma and be more fair and independent and not mirror the local authority’s draconian approach.

  6. Adedeji Sobowale August 7, 2019 at 9:07 am #

    Head you lose, tail you lose scenario.