Press release

Nicky Morgan unveils plans to transform children's social work

Secretary of State for Education discusses plans for a new social work body to improve standards in the profession.

Father and child

Plans for the creation of a brand new body for social work to drive up standards and put social workers on par with high-status professions such as surgeons or lawyers have been unveiled today (14 January 2016) by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Today’s announcement comes just days after the Prime Minister delivered a key note speech on transforming life chances for the most vulnerable in which he described the government’s children social care reforms as the ‘landmark reforms of the next 5 years’.

Frontline children’s social work will also be bolstered by the recruitment of thousands of top graduates from across the country, thanks to the expansion of high-quality entry routes into the profession - backed by £100 million of government funding.

The cash injection will see the expansion of the successful Frontline programme across the country, as well as a further cohort of the government’s Step Up to Social Work scheme. The funding will result in over 3,000 of the best and the brightest graduates training to be social workers over the next 5 years - meaning by 2018, 1 in 4 newly qualified social workers will have joined child and family social work via exemplary fast track programmes.

And to ensure social workers are empowered and supported to do the job they came into the profession to do - making change happen for the families they serve - the government has outlined a new vision for all child and family social workers to be assessed against the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families knowledge and skills statements by the end of this Parliament.

Speaking during a visit to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to meet with social workers serving children and families in the area, Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, will say:

Excellent social workers transform lives. These hard working, dedicated professionals have the ability not just to improve the circumstances of vulnerable children but to change them entirely. That is why supporting social workers, and giving them the tools they need, is a priority for this government and a personal priority for me as Secretary of State.

Our reforms are big and bold because we need the best people on the frontline, armed with the knowledge and skills to change lives. These reforms are about getting it right for social workers, so that social workers can get it right for our most vulnerable children and families.

The new body will have a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work, education, training and practice in both children’s and adult’s social work. It will also set standards for training and oversee the roll out of a new assessment and accreditation system for children and family social workers. Over time, it will become the new regulatory body for social work, in place of the Health and Care Professions Council.

To further harness the innovation and excellence of the very best local authorities in frontline children’s services, a further 3 councils will be given academy-style freedoms to develop new systems of delivering social care and trial new ways of working with families and children.

The new councils - Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Islington - will join the 6 areas who are currently trailblazing this approach, announced by the Prime Minister in December last year - North Yorkshire, the tri-borough authorities (Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond and Kingston.

In addition, government funding of up to £20 million will be available for a new ‘What Works Centre’, with the aim of making sure social workers across the country are able to learn from the very best examples of frontline social work. The new centre will be launched later in the year. And an urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards, undertaken by social care expert Alan Wood, will also ensure all children receive the very best quality care and protection.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler, said:

Today’s announcements form the springboard for social work to become recognised as one of the most highly regarded and expert professions in the public service landscape. Such high ambition will be achieved through a dedicated and focused partnership with government so together we provide practice excellence everywhere for the children, families and communities we serve.

I look forward to working with the profession and the strongest practice leaders ‎in England, alongside children, young people and families, Ofsted, employers and Universities, to drive this ambition forward. This challenge is not for the faint-hearted but nor is social work. We have been given a new opportunity to prove our worth to the public. I am completely confident that we will not disappoint.

Josh MacAlister, Frontline’s Chief Executive, said:

I’m delighted that the government has confirmed its support for the expansion of the Frontline programme across the country, and welcome its commitment to raising the prestige of social work.

Today’s announcement is a great opportunity for Frontline to go national in developing even more outstanding social workers to stand alongside those children and families who need them the most. This endorsement is a reflection of the quality of the work undertaken by our participants who are already changing lives for the most vulnerable children and families in Britain.

The new manifesto for frontline children’s social work follows the introduction of radical reforms by the Prime Minister in December last year, which announced failing children’s services would face immediate intervention - including the possible takeover by high-performing authorities, teams of experts and charities.

The Prime Minister also announced:

  • increased funding to attract more high-calibre graduates into children’s social work by expanding the successful programmes, Frontline and Step Up
  • the creation of 6 ‘Partner in Practice’ sites - North Yorkshire, Hampshire, Tri-borough (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond & Kingston - who will be given academy style freedoms to drive innovation in children’s social care;
  • a drive to recruit new trust sponsors from high performing local authorities and the charity sector to help deliver innovative children’s services
  • an urgent review of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and centralisation of serious case reviews to learn lessons from serious incidents

Notes to editors

  1. Today’s announcement follows on from work in 2014, where the Education Secretary unveiled a new set of professional standards for all levels of the children’s social work profession with the aim of inspiring and developing the next generation of leaders.
  2. A review published by social work expert, Sir Martin Narey in the same year, found that too many people were entering the profession lacking the knowledge and skills able to operate effectively. Outcomes from Ofsted inspections of children’s services also show that practice is not consistently excellent across the country
  3. There are currently around 90,000 qualified social workers in England, of whom around 27,000 work in child and family social work.
  4. Read more about the knowledge and skills statements from the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families.
  5. Read the PM announcement on failing children’s services

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Published 14 January 2016