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 am grateful to the hon. Lady for her reasoned and helpful questions to try to establish what the new clause proposes. I think I have set that out in some detail already, but I will try to address some of the specifics that she has raised.

I have already given a picture of what the consultation has involved to date. It is also worth reminding the Committee that more than 1,000 social workers have volunteered to test out the assessment accreditation process as it is rolled out so that we can be sure that what we have at the other end is fit for purpose. There has been widespread involvement of the social work profession. This is not a new phenomenon. It is being brought in very carefully as regards this important change for those working on the frontline.

The knowledge and skills statements are simply statements and they will not take on any formal status until the Secretary of State has powers to publish standards against which an assessment of skill and knowledge is made. That is not unusual; in other public service professions, such as doctors, nurses and midwives, there is a similar approach.

Social Work England will have a role as the regulator in approving post-qualifying courses, both those relating to the approved mental health professionals, which I mentioned before, and the training of the best interests assessors. In time, the new regulator will also be able take responsibility for the national assessment and accreditation system.

The system will be rolled out in the first instance by the Department for Education. Phase one of the roll-out will be in 2017-18 and phase two in 2019-20. Once the regulator is up and running, there is a clear logic for it to take on that role of approving post-qualifying courses, of which this would be one. That is an important distinction to make and is very much in line with what happens in other parts of the public service.

As I set out in my opening remarks, this system is very different from the clear remit of Social Work England and the regulation of the profession. This is about how to maintain standards post-qualification, how we support social workers as they move through the profession and gain experience, and how we can be confident that they have the requisite knowledge and skills to provide a first-class service for children in their area.

I will continue to discuss these points with the hon. Lady. If there are other specific questions that I have not covered, I will endeavour to do so in writing. This measure has not appeared suddenly overnight; it has been through a long process of development with the profession. It has been welcomed and constructively engaged with by social workers and local authorities, which are very interested in seeing how they can ensure that it improves not only the quality but the status of social work in their areas.