In her speech at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announced the government’s plan to introduce a new set of professional standards for social workers next year.
The proposals will see a new assessment and accreditation system for three levels of professional practice:
A new approved child and family practitioner status:
An essential requirement for any social worker holding cases of children in need, children at risk of harm and looked-after children.
An assessed and accredited supervisor status:
To ensure frontline workers are managed and supervised by those with the knowledge and skills needed to shape that practice excellence.
A new role of social work practice leader:
A senior leadership position, focused on the quality of frontline practice locally and complementing the corporate leadership role of the director of children’s services.
“It is hard to think of a more important job than social work,” stated Morgan, as she spoke of how difficult the job is and how the work being delivered is making a difference to vulnerable children’s lives across the country. However, she expressed a need for change in response to the number of failures in recent years, confirming that “even one child failed by the system is a child to many.”
Recognising the issues of ‘red tape’ restricting frontline engagement, lack of supervision and problems with staff retention, Morgan hopes the new standards will ensure “the brightest and best lead rather than leave the profession.”
The three standards will be based on the new statement of the knowledge and skills needed for children’s social work, which is to be published next month by Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families.
The assessment and accreditation systems for all three levels of qualification will be developed over the coming months, with rollout planned for next year. However, while the focus on supporting frontline practice has already received a warm welcome, questions have been raised about the impact on current practice methods.
Jo Cleary, Chair of The College of Social Work (TCSW), said: “TCSW is extremely heartened by the Secretary of State’s clear and explicit support for a strong and confident profession.”
“We support the importance of social work professional leadership and the proposal to develop accreditation for senior practice leaders is a bold step. However, we will need to understand how this will ‘fit’ with the existing Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PSW) role. The PSW role is now well embedded in most local authorities and we look forward to clarification of this matter.”
Jo Cleary also questioned the possibilities of using the system within adult social work. She explained: “It is vital that there is equity and equivalence across these two connected spheres of our profession.”
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