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Social workers to be placed on a more professional footing

The Social Work Reform Board sets out a national set of professional standards outlining what social workers are expected to do.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Social Work Reform Board (SWRB) today set out to social workers what working conditions they should expect from their employers, as it published proposals to put social workers on a greater professional footing and reform their education.

The standards of supervision and support social workers should expect from their employers include:

  • making sure the right number of social workers with the right level of skills and experience are available to meet the level of demand
  • managing workloads and caseloads so that social workers are not overworked
  • giving social workers the practical resources they need to do their jobs
  • creating development opportunities for social workers to give them greater experience and skills

The board is also setting out for the first time a single, national set of professional standards outlining what social workers are expected to do at every point in their career and what level of service the public can expect from them. This brings the profession in line with other public sector professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers.

Social work education should also be reformed to improve the quality of social work degrees, with more rigorous selection criteria. The Board recommends that the design of social work courses should involve people who have experienced social services, so that the training properly reflects the real-life reality of the job.

Moira Gibb, CBE, Chair of the Social Work Reform Board and Chief Executive of the London Borough of Camden, said:

A year ago the Social Work Task Force recommended comprehensive reform of the social work system so that in the future, social workers are more consistently able to practise confidently and safely. Since then, the Social Work Reform Board has been working to make the task force’s recommendations a reality.

This report, the first from the Social Work Reform Board, marks a staging post in the journey of social work reform and a foundation for helping us, together, to deliver a better future for social work. The proposals published today should help every individual social worker, every employer of social workers and everyone who educates or trains social workers to do their work better in the interests of those who need and use social work.

The government supports the work of the Social Work Reform Board and is urging the sector to become involved in the next steps towards implementing these important and necessary changes.

Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister, said:

I welcome the Social Work Reform Board’s proposals, which are an important step for social workers to gain the status and respect they so rightly deserve. We are committed to making a real difference to frontline social work and to implementing the Social Work Reform Board’s recommendations. That is why in the new year we will be announcing significant funding to implement the reforms and Professor Munro’s recommendations to improve child protection.

Social workers perform an invaluable job that all too often gets overlooked and taken for granted. They need all the professional support and advice possible so that they feel confident they are making the right decisions.

I thank Moira Gibb and the Reform Board for all the work they have done over the last year. This strongly supports the changes that Professor Munro is advising and will ensure social workers can progress in their careers and feel proud of the vital job they do every day.

Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, said:

The Social Work Task Force brought forward a number of ideas to improve the social work profession, and this Government has made clear that reform of social work is a priority.

The work of the sector-led Social Work Reform Board, and development of the College of Social Work, will ensure that the task force’s recommendations to improve the profession will become a reality.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:

I welcome the first anniversary report of the Social Work Reform Board’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force. This is an important step towards achieving the necessary fundamental and long-term reform of the social work system. I encourage the social work profession to respond positively to the proposals set out in the report.

The reforms will affect the profession, service users and carers as well as organisations that educate and employ social workers. The Social Work Reform Board is seeking views on its proposals until 31 March 2011.

 Notes to editors

  1. ‘Building a safe and confident future: first detailed proposals from the Social Work Reform Board’ is published today.
  2. The report, ‘Building a safe and confident future: one year on’, proposes 5 key improvements: * an overarching professional standards framework - setting out for the first time the standards expected of social workers at every point of their career, from their degree to advanced social work roles * standards for employers and a supervision framework - setting out employers statutory responsibilities to help and support social workers and challenge them to develop their skills * continuing professional development (CPD) framework - the principles that help social workers develop specialist knowledge, improve their practice and progress in their careers * developing social work education so that student social workers receive high quality preparation for joining the profession * better partnership working between employers and higher education institutions to provide practice placements for degree students and CPD for social workers.
  3. The Social Work Reform Board brings together social work educators, employers, practitioners and service users from across the sector to guide and monitor the implementation of the 15 recommendations of the Social Work Task Force made in December 2009. Read further information about reform Board membership on the SWRB website.
  4. The Reform Board was convened in January 2010 and is chaired by Moira Gibb CBE, Chief Executive of the London Borough of Camden.
  5. This report sets out proposals in 5 key areas of reform. Progress is being made across the breadth of the task force’s recommendations and further reports and proposals will be presented by the reform Board in the future.

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Published 14 December 2010