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Government executive agency to regulate social work

New government ‘executive agency’ will set standards on behalf of Secretaries of State and take over regulation of social work

A government ‘executive agency’ will take over the regulation of social work under proposals outlined by the Department for Education.

Government is proposing to establish an executive agency, jointly supported by both the Department of Health and the Department for Education which will set standards on behalf of the Secretaries of State.

The new ‘executive agency’ will take over the regulation of the Health and Care Professions Council which has an approach “designed to maintain minimum standards of public safety and initial education across a range of professions, rather than drive up standards in any one profession”, a policy statement from the DfE states.

“The need to drive up standards in social work is, though, vital for a profession where the safety of our most vulnerable people is inextricably linked with the highest standards of practice,” said the policy statement on Regulating Social Workers. “In addition, it has not been possible in social work to create a sustainable professional body which could play a decisive role in raising standards.”

“A distinct social work specific regulator will have the expertise and standards oriented approach essential to this drive for improvement. Given the need for reform, the desire to effect change quickly and the links to its wider reform programme, Government believes that the most appropriate course of action at this time is for regulation to move closer to Government,” the policy statement added.

While the agency will set standards on behalf of the Secretaries of State, decisions about the quality of individual social work training programmes and the fitness to practise of individual social workers will be kept at “arm’s length of Ministers and with a high degree of transparency”.

However, the document states that more independence may be possible further down the line and Government is committed, three years after the body is established, to consulting with the sector on whether the agency should be placed on a more independent footing.

The new agency deliver a comprehensive regulatory framework including:

  • Publish new professional standards, aligning with the Chief Social Workers Knowledge and Skills statements
  • Set new standards for qualifying education and training, and reaccredit providers against these standards by 2020
  • Maintain a single register of social workers, annotating it to denote specialist accreditations;
  • Set new, social work specific, standards for continuous professional development;
  • Oversee a robust and transparent fitness to practise system;
  • Approve post qualifying courses and training in specialisms such as Approved Mental Health Professionals and Best Interest Assessors;
  • Oversee the proposed new assessment and accreditation system for child and family social workers; and,
  • Oversee the required arrangements for successfully completing the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).“We need to set credible standards which address evidence of failings in practice and set clear expectations of the profession. These need to be developed in close collaboration with the sector, drawing on the expertise of the Chief Social Workers, employers, academics and practitioners themselves. They need to address both pre and post qualification career development and be backed up by robust systems which address any malpractice,” the document concluded.

The plans for a new social work regulator are set out in the Children and Social Work Bill.






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