Improvement standards

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 10 Ionawr 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 2:15, 10 Ionawr 2017

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This new clause supports our aim of establishing a new career pathway for social workers that recognises specialist, post-qualification expertise in child and family social work and will reinforce our focus on the quality of practice. It makes provision for the Secretary of State to determine and publish improvement standards for social workers in England, or to arrange for someone else to do so on her behalf. An improvement standard is a post-qualification professional standard which, if attained, demonstrates a particular expertise or specialisation. The Secretary of State will be required to consult before determining any improvement standards.

I would like to make it clear that these standards are distinct from the proficiency standards which the regulator, Social Work England, will set and which must be met by all social workers in order to register. The new clause is vital to enable the introduction of the national assessment and accreditation system which is a fundamental part of our national reform programme that seeks to ensure that all children and families get the support and protection they need.

We are all aware that child and family social workers do an incredibly important job under very trying circumstances, and we all thank them for it. They deal with complex and fraught situations that require great depth of skill, knowledge, understanding and empathy. To clearly set out what characterises effective work with children at their most vulnerable, the chief social worker for children and families, Isabelle Trowler, has published three statements on the knowledge and skills needed to operate at three levels of practice for child and family social workers. That includes frontline practice, supervisory roles and practice leaders. One of the Department’s priorities is supporting the workforce in consistently meeting these aspirations.

The knowledge and skills statements will form the basis of a national assessment and accreditation system for child and family social work, or NAAS. Child and family social workers will be accredited against these standards in order to recognise consistently the specialist knowledge and skills that child and family social workers, supervisors and leaders need in order to practise effectively. NAAS will provide, for the first time, a consistent way of recognising the specialist knowledge and skills needed by child and family social workers, supervisors and leaders to practise effectively. It will recognise progression through the child and family specialism, making clear what good practice looks like and what path a career in social work could take. Supporting social workers to improve their practice is vital when it comes to supporting the profession, and thus the children and families they work with.

We have carried out extensive work with the profession to establish what form assessment will take, and we have launched an open consultation to support our thinking on how the new system is to be rolled out. While there are no current plans for a NAAS for adult social work, this measure would enable the Secretary of State to determine and publish a similar set of improvement standards in relation to adult social workers in England. There is already a degree of specialisation in this area through the roles of approved mental health practitioner and best interest assessor. We intend to look closely at whether taking further steps in this direction for adult social work is desirable.