Tougher requirements for independent social work providers rejected

By Neil Puffett

| 28 October 2013

The government has dismissed calls to strengthen requirements for GP-style social work practices to employ registered social workers.

Independent social work providers will be expected to register with Ofsted from next month. Image: Jason Bye

Responding to a consultation on the registration of providers of social work services, the Department for Education (DfE) said the most common view was that within independent providers, either all managers or at least a minimum proportion of employees, should be registered social workers.

However, it said that it would not be changing the proposed regulations in order to avoid being overly prescriptive about who is employed.

“DfE believes the underlying aspiration is already addressed through the requirement in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 that delegated functions be discharged by or under the supervision of a registered social worker, but we do not believe it is desirable to set rigid requirements in terms of staff structure,” the government’s response states.

The consultation, which closed to responses on 9 October, was launched after the House of Lords opposed the government’s view that independent providers of social work services should not have to meet standards for staff and premises set down by regulator Ofsted.

The government is allowing all local authorities the ability to hand responsibility for services to GP-style social work practices by enacting Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 that has allowed councils to trial the arrangements for the past five years.

The government made the concession on registration so it could enact the legislation before a so-called  “sunset provision” expires next month.

It did not initially want providers to be required to register with Ofsted, stating that local authorities already have an obligation to impose “appropriate contractual arrangements” for which Ofsted can hold them to account.

However, when the House of Lords opposed the stance, the government performed a U-turn in order to have enough time to enact Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act before next month.

The government has previously said that the provision is being enacted primarily to allow the social work practice pilots, launched in 2008, to continue, but it also says the move will afford other local authorities the ability to follow suit in the future, should they wish.

The DfE has however said it will amend the regulations to accommodate a number of other calls, including an additional requirement that premises are situated in a “safe and appropriate” location.

Providers will also have to demonstrate a commitment to “effective and safe work” through policies covering safeguarding, child protection and whistleblowing. They will also have to demonstrate their financial viability.

Earlier this month experts voiced concerns that the plans could lead to a privatisation of social work.

The government’s response reveals that a revised set of regulations that takes into account responses from the consultation was put before parliament last Monday (21 October).

The regulations are due to take effect from 12 November.

blog comments powered by Disqus