Social Work England to have power to limit duties

By Joe Lepper

| 05 June 2018

The new social work regulator will have the power to limit the types of work social workers can do and test them on their English skills, the government has confirmed.

Colum Conway is to be the first chief executive of Social Work England. Picture: Northern Ireland Social Care Council

In its official response to a consultation on the establishment of Social Work England, the government said that the new regulatory body will be able to place conditions of registration on social workers who do not meet expected professional standards.

The move has been backed by the majority (79 per cent) of those who responded to the consultation. In attaching conditions on registration Social Work England will have to gain the consent of the social worker, the government said.

The regulator will also be required to draft clear rules around conditional registration, including how the restrictions can be reviewed, changed and removed.

The government has said that the aim of conditional registration is to ensure that social workers can practice safely.

"We have made clear in the regulations that the ability to attach conditions to an individual's registration is linked to that individual's ability to meet eligibility criteria and requires their consent," states the government's response.

"Regulations will require Social Work England to register applicants who meet the eligibility and procedural requirements but provide flexibility to register with conditions to ensure they can remain practising safely.

"Social Work England will be required to make rules in relation to conditional registration, including circumstances in which the regulator may grant registration subject to conditions and review, vary and remove conditions.

A separate government impact assessment for the proposals states that conditional registration could benefit those with health conditions, disabilities and those returning to the labour market.

The government has also confirmed that Social Work England will have the power to refuse registration if a social worker's English language skills are not good enough.

Language testing already takes place for social workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). For the first time this will also apply to potential registrants from non-English speaking European countries and will be based on "internationally accepted" language testing, the government's response states.

Language testing of applicants is backed by the majority of respondents (85 per cent) with a government impact assessment saying that the number of social workers affected would be small.

"Any adverse effects for the small number of EEA registrants would, the government concluded, be more than outweighed by the public protection benefits that would arise for service users from the consistent application of the language requirements to all registrants," adds the impact assessment.

Meanwhile, the government has announced that Colum Conway is to be the first chief executive of Social Work England.

Conway is currently chief executive of the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, the social work regulator for Northern Ireland.

"I am determined that Social Work England will make a unique and lasting contribution to the profession of social work and to the role of professional regulation in how it supports improvement and raises standards in practice and care," Conway said.

"It will be a benefit to the profession to have a regulator that is adaptable and agile, responsive and efficient, and works to establish and maintain constructive relationships with the diverse range of people who have an interest in social work."

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi, said: "Social workers have such an important role in our society and have a life-changing and lasting impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families.

"Colum has a background in social work and will bring a breadth of experience from his leadership role at Northern Ireland's regulator, and will make sure Social Work England works in the best interests of the profession, as well as the vulnerable adults, children and families who need them."

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