Call for social workers to have greater role in early intervention

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Social workers should be routinely involved in early intervention work that goes beyond their legal responsibilities, the College of Social Work has said.

The advice note is open to consultation until 28 June. Image: NTI
The advice note is open to consultation until 28 June. Image: NTI

The college, which exists to uphold professional standards, has launched a consultation on the roles and responsibilities of qualified social workers, aimed at employers and commissioners. It includes a list of "reserved tasks" that only qualified social workers should do, and calls for social workers to be consulted on cases where statutory thresholds for their involvement have yet to be met.

The advice note, open for consultation until 28 June, is expected to serve as a best practice guide for local services. It aims to ensure that social workers are used to help children and families where their skills can make a positive difference.

The note sets out circumstances in which social workers must always be used, as stipulated in law, and also in situations “where consistently and reliably reaching the minimum necessary standards of practice requires the use of social workers”.

But it states that it would be “extremely unwise” to only use social workers for these “reserved tasks”.

“In some cases the reserved task activities (which may include the deployment of statutory powers) come as the final process in a much longer set of interventions when taking a child into care after a period spent attempting to help the birth family to make changes that would allow the child to remain in parental care,” the note states.

“There is also a growing body of evidence that the involvement of social workers in early intervention work may be of great benefit to people who use services in helping them to make changes to their lives that will reduce the likelihood of crisis and the need for intensive support later in their lives.”

The advice note represents the first attempt to set out a list of activities that should apply to social workers alone.

“Most professions have clear definitions of the roles and tasks that only they should do," said College of Social Work chair Jo Cleary.

“In the current economic climate it is even more important to be clear about the contribution that social work at its best can make to improving outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people, children and families in our communities. 

“Public sector budget cuts are putting huge pressure on social work posts and we need to make sure that social workers are being employed to do the work that only they can do proficiently.”

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