Government seeks new chair for Social Work England

Helping deliver on government policy, including introduction of early career framework for children's practitioners, will be a key priority for successor to Lord Patel as head of regulator's board, says DfE

Gillian Keegan
Education secretary and former care minister Gillian Keegan (credit: UK Parliament website)

The government is seeking a new chair for Social Work England, in the wake of Lord Patel’s resignation from the role in March.

The successful candidate will hold the post for up to three years, earning £450 a day for 80 days’ work a year.

The chair’s role is to run Social Work England’s governing board, holding its chief executive, Colum Conway, to account for the regulator’s performance.

As Social Work England is the responsibility of government, specifically the Department for Education, the chair must also “work closely with ministers and government officials to drive forward a clear strategic direction” for the regulator, said the DfE, in its job advertisement.

This includes advising the education and health and social care secretaries, currently Gillian Keegan and Steve Barclay, on issues within Social Work England’s remit, when requested.

Helping deliver on government policy

In an introduction to the advert, Keegan also stressed the importance of the chair helping deliver on government social work policy.

Within children’s services, this would include the workforce reforms contained in the DfE’s Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy, published in February, notably the creation of an early career framework (ECF) for social workers in their first five years of practice.

Keegan said this would require changes to social work standards.

In relation to adults’ services, she referenced the Department of Health and Social Care’s latest policy statement, Next steps to put people at the heart of care paper, published in April, setting out its plans to make care more personalised, accessible and of higher quality.

This does not involve any changes to social work policy, but Keegan said that the new Social Work England chair would support efforts to ensure social workers “are equipped to support those who will most benefit” from their practice.

Key criteria for Social Work England role

Though Patel was a former social worker, there is no requirement to have a background in the profession, with “experience or a good understanding of health, social work, social care or other relevant public services” listed as a desirable – but not an essential – criterion for the role.

The essential criteria are:

  • an understanding of current government policy;
  • substantial experience of leading a high-performing board;
  • experience of or understanding of regulation;
  • ability to promote and oversee the highest standards of corporate governance;
  • a track record of risk management and managing and improving organisational performance;
  • being an excellent communicator and having the ability to challenge constructively.

Following Patel’s resignation, fellow board member Andrew McCulloch took over as interim chair, a role he will likely fulfil until the autumn, with early September being the deadline for applications for the chair’s role.

Three of the current seven-member board board – Conway, Dr Adi Cooper and Dr Sue Ross – are registered social workers.


More from Community Care

4 Responses to Government seeks new chair for Social Work England

  1. Jessica Adams July 20, 2023 at 10:11 am #

    How about putting SW wages up and actually supporting the people on the ground that you are burning out!!! There will be no SW left and the SWE is an absolute joke!!!

  2. Julia Abadi July 20, 2023 at 4:52 pm #

    Not a rhetorical question: What does SW England actually do for front line social workers?

  3. Louise July 20, 2023 at 8:20 pm #

    I would do a review on the threshold for investigations… I believe the SWE England investigators abuse their power in deciding who to review. The process is unethical and bullyish, the letters are appallingly worded and make you feel guilty until proven innocent- the process leads to people feeling untrustworthy of SWE especially when being investigated by people with no SW experience

  4. Anon July 21, 2023 at 7:51 am #

    Time time to improve the employment standards for social workers. Pay them for over time, provide a functioning out of hours team to take over instead of workers working late into the evening with no breaks and only toil or flexi to take on the never never….. provide pool cars to visits or pay wear and tear for cars and increase mileage. Accept fostering and placements are on their knees… there is no placements for children and the foster carers that exsist (not all but many) manipulate the authorities dependance on them for their iwn gain.
    The dependance on social workers kindness and generosity because of their consideration and loyalty to children is a form of exploitation in its self hidden in plain sight. SOCIAL WORKERS CARE the system fails.