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 Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families) 2:15, 10 Ionawr 2017

I have a few brief comments and questions for the Minister. I am a little concerned that we are seeing an attempt to put back into the Bill powers for the Secretary of State to determine professional standards and assess whether social worker practitioners meet them or not. It is right that Ministers should want to take action to improve standards, but will the Minister explain what those standards will be as they will be subject to secondary legislation and therefore not to intense parliamentary scrutiny? It is only right that the Committee is clear about the intention of the new clause and understands why the Secretary of State feels the need to determine professional social worker standards. It is also a little concerning that after the success in the Lords of the noble Lord Hunt as regards an arm’s length social worker regulatory body, new clause 10(1)(b) is now proposed. Will the Minister explain the rationale for the new clause and give assurances that there will not be Government interference, influence or Government-funded assessment activities of social workers against improvement standards?

The new clause attempts to reassert the role of the Secretary of State in setting standards and developing assessment benchmarks post-qualification. Could that not result in confusion and conflict with the role and functions of the proposed social worker regulatory body, or is the intention that the Secretary of State and persons appointed to assess improvement will be a de facto second regulator? I am sure the Minister agrees that that could have the adverse effect of creating confusion about who is setting and who is assessing standards. It could create more bureaucracy in an already highly complicated arena and would have an adverse effect on recruitment and retention—an area in which, as the Minister knows, the sector is already struggling.

After this morning’s debate, I cannot help thinking that there is an attempt to do something else with the new clause, especially as it has been introduced once again without any consultation or discussion with the social work sector. In answering my questions, can the Minister convince us otherwise?