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”.
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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.
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.