Social Work England

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 15 Rhagfyr 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 3:00, 15 Rhagfyr 2016

Clause 33 underpins our ambition to improve the practice of social work and raise the status of the profession. It establishes a new body corporate, Social Work England, which will be a new, bespoke regulator for this vital and unique profession.

First, I will set out the case and motivation for reform. In many ways, the easiest thing would be to do nothing and not prioritise social work as a key plank of the Government’s efforts to transform children’s social care. I think we all agree that high-quality social work can transform lives and that social workers play a critical role in our society. They deliver a range of vital services, from safeguarding the most vulnerable to supporting those with complex needs to live life to the full. Every day, social workers deal with complex and fraught situations that require a great depth of skill, knowledge, understanding and empathy. When social workers are not able to fulfil their role competently the consequences can be catastrophic, which is why the Government have developed a significant reform programme to improve the quality of social work and of the systems that support social workers. That includes investing £750 million since 2010 in supporting both traditional and fast-track routes into the profession and investing £100 million to date in the children’s social care innovation programme, so that local authorities and others can evidence how to reform services and practice to be more effective.

More is needed. To underpin the reforms, social work needs a regulatory system that meets the needs of this unique profession. Such a regulatory system will help to improve public safety and promote the status and standing of social work. The need for an improved system of regulation for the social work profession in England has been highlighted in recent independent reviews.

The hon. Lady asked why the social work profession should have a different regulator from the health profession. The approach of the current regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council, is designed to maintain minimum standards of public safety and initial education across a range of professions, rather than to drive up standards in any one profession. Driving up standards is vital for a profession in which the safety of our most vulnerable people is inextricably linked to the highest standards of practice. I would argue also that social work is a distinct and highly skilled profession and that its practitioners manage complex risks and work with vulnerable children and adults on a daily basis. A new specialist regulator for social work reflects that reality and will be able to focus on the unique nature of social work practice and on the education and training needed to support it in a way that is, unfortunately, not currently possible.

Clause 33 provides for the establishment of a new regulator for the social work profession in England. It makes it clear that our intention is to set up a regulator that is a separate legal entity at arm’s length from Government. It is important to maintain appropriate distance between the new regulator and Government, and I make it clear that it has never been our intention to give Government the power to make decisions about the fitness to practise of individual social workers.

The clause also introduces schedule 2, which sets out the new body’s governance and accountability arrangements. We may want to discuss that in more detail later, but our ambition in establishing a new bespoke, independent regulator for social work is to continue improving the practice of social work and raising the status of the profession.