Regulator to get power to place social workers on 'limited duties'

By Tristan Donovan

| 08 February 2018

Struggling social workers could be prevented from carrying out certain duties by the new regulatory body for the profession due to be set up later this year, it has emerged.

A new accreditation system for children's social workers which is due to launch. Picture: bibiphoto/

Under plans put out to consultation today, the Department for Education wants to hand Social Work England the power to place conditions on the type of work that can be done by social workers who do not meet expected professional standards. The new regulator is due to launch in September.

"We are proposing that, like the Scottish and Northern Ireland social care regulators, Social Work England have the power to register social workers in England with conditions," the consultation document states.

"Conditional registration allows an individual to be registered and practise subject to conditions, such as restrictions on the type of work they can undertake or requirements related to health conditions, such as undertaking medical treatment or assessments.

"This would give Social Work England greater flexibility to grant registration applications for individuals where it considers it proportionate and in line with public protection, allowing the individual an opportunity to meet standards rather than refusing registration."

The proposals coincide with the introduction of the new accreditation system for children's social workers which is due to launch in five local authority areas in mid-2018, before being extended to a further 20 authorities in early 2019.

In 2016 chief children's social worker Isabelle Trowler said that social workers who fail to meet the standards set out in the knowledge and skills statements would be not deregistered, but the type of work that social workers that fail the test are allowed to conduct is likely to be limited.

The Social Work England consultation also proposes that social workers will only be registered if their English language skills are up to scratch.

A lack of English language proficiency would also be grounds for fitness to practise proceedings.

"We anticipate that Social Work England will take a phased approach to applying this registration condition to existing registrants," says the consultation.

In recent years local authorities have sought to fill social work vacancies with candidates from foreign countries, including in non-English speaking European Union nations.

The consultation also says Social Work England would be able to set standards for continuous professional development that will go beyond looking at the number of hours undertaken.

Plans to establish a new, dedicated social worker regulator were first announced in January 2016. Social Work England will operate as a non-departmental public body. The consultation will run until 21 March 2018.

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