Changes to social work regulation agreed following consultation
Monday, August 22, 2022
The Department for Education has announced that changes to legislation surrounding the regulation of children's social work will go ahead later this year, following a public consultation on reforms.
The changes, first proposed in March this year, span Social Work England’s fitness to practice rules, registration, removal from the register and appeals rules and fees.
Expected to come into force on 1 December, changes to regulations include a new provision, granting the regulator power to disclose information relating to any individual applying to, currently on or formally on the social work register.
They also include a shift of responsibility from the adjudicator to the regulator, in relation to the administration of fitness to practice hearings and extends the review period for interim orders, issued as part of fitness to practice proceedings, from three to six months.
Further changes include powers to disclose information relating to a registered social worker’s fitness to practice, when in the public interest to do so, and an increase to the speed at which orders in effect against social workers are published.
A joint response to the consultation, issued in June, by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Social Worker’s Union, was broadly supportive of legislative changes.
However, BASW England professional officer and social worker Wayne Reid, who coordinated the responses, emphasised that changes to regulatory framework should align with the BASW’s code of ethics.
Reid said: “We hope the new proposed reforms will streamline the fitness to practice process and address the disproportionate outcomes experienced by social workers from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds and other inequalities.
“We also request that the revised rules and regulations incorporate and embody anti-racist, anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory values and ethics explicitly in accordance with equality, diversity and inclusion.”
The consultation generated approval ratings from social workers, unions, local authorities, regulatory bodies and service users varying between 68 and 94 per cent.
The draft regulations will be introduced in parliament in the coming weeks but will not come into practice for at least two months. This interval, during which Social Work England’s rules and guidance will be updated to reflect new regulations, is intended to allow social workers time to take the changes into account.
The DfE's own written response to the consultation results, states: “We are pleased that the majority of respondents supported the proposed changes to Social Work England’s regulatory framework which will further improve the regulator’s operational efficiency in support of effective public protection.
"Having analysed all the responses provided we intend to take forward all the proposed changes without substantive amendments to the draft legislation.”