Lord Patel has stepped down as Social Work England’s inaugural chair after five years at the helm.
The former social worker and ex-head of Mental Health Act watchdog the Mental Health Act Commission said he was stepping back from a number of commitments this year but “would really miss working with the organisation”.
He will be replaced for a year, as interim chair, by current Social Work England board member Andrew McCulloch, a health and social care consultant who was previously a civil servant and leader of charities including the Mental Health Foundation.
The Department for Education appointed Patel in March 2018 to help set up Social Work England and prepare it to take over the regulation of the profession from the Health and Care Professions Council in December 2019.
Chief executive Colum Conway paid tribute to Patel’s working during this period, saying he “visited over 1000 people and organisations during our start up phase to ensure that our specialist approach was grounded in the reality of delivering social work practice”.
‘Commitment to social work’
Conway added: “His commitment to social work and everyone who uses and works for the profession has been invaluable to the organisation.”
Patel said: “I am extremely proud of the progress that Social Work England has made in its formative years and would like to thank everyone who has been instrumental in this. I am confident that by continuing its commitment to work with people with lived experience of social work, social workers, academics, employers, students and everyone with an interest in social work, Social Work England will make lasting change.”
The appointment of McCulloch, who is not a social worker by background, comes with the regulator about to launch a three-year strategy, covering 2023-26.
He said: “I have been deeply committed to social work and social care throughout my career both generally and in regard to people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. It has been a privilege to support Social Work England from its very beginning and witness its progress in bringing together the profession to drive change, raise standards in social work and raise the profile and standing of this vital profession. As we prepare to launch our strategy for 2023 to 2026 I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders to drive positive change.”