Letter to the Chairman submitted by Mick
Lowe, Director of Strategy, General Social Care Council (GSCC)
Thank you for the opportunity to provide oral
evidence to the Committee's inquiry into Looked After Children
on Monday 30 June 2008. It was a very useful session, and the
General Social Care Council will be very interested to read the
Committee's report upon publication.
As you may recall, 30 June's session featured
a number of witnesses, and as time was restricted the opening
statements in the second session were cut. I would like to take
the opportunity to outline some of the key points I would have
made, and offer some follow-up points we thought it would be useful
to draw to the Committee's attention.
Building a confident and competent workforce
of social work professionals is absolutely central to the Government's
plans for improving the life chances of all children. A range
of factors must be in place, including the solid foundation of
the new social work degree with access to quality practice placements;
supervision and caseload management; and consistent employer support
for a social worker's ongoing training and learning.
The social work degree, which is now required
for entry into the profession, teaches relevant aspects of the
law, but this is only the first step in preparing social workers
for complex child protection, fostering and adoption cases. The
other elements of training, supervision and support, such as post-qualifying
learning, all need to be in place for social workers to take this
work on and to improve the profession's recruitment and retention
There is still some way to go in achieving this.
We would like to see stronger partnerships with employers to improve
the quality and availability of practice placements and for all
employers to sufficiently support social workers to complete post-qualifying
training and learning, which is the opportunity to develop knowledge
and skills in specialist areas.
We believe that employers' commitment to training
and support would be strengthened if the GSCC code of practice
for employers was put onto a statutory footing. The GSCC is disappointed
that the Government isn't taking the opportunity to introduce
this in the Health and Social Care Bill, and I enclose, for your
Committee's information, a copy of our Codes of practice for social
care workers and employers.
The GSCC is strongly in favour of the continuation
of the generic degree. As we heard from other witnesses in the
session, a social worker needs to be educated and trained to understand
the adults in the lives of children and the dynamics and relationships
that develop. Children's lives are shaped by adults and it is
impossible to provide social work without this understanding.
The post-qualifying training and learning framework provides the
opportunity to build specialist knowledge, and social workers
can opt for specialist courses and placements within the generic
training. This is consistent with other professions such as medicine
and the law, where post-qualifying learning is an expected part
of a doctor or lawyer's professional development.
Specific questions were raised by the Committee
and by witnesses about the content of social work education and
the training curricula. It was acknowledged that policy changes
and professional knowledge and understanding are always going
to be developed whilst practicing and it is, therefore, essential
that social workers and their employers are strongly committed
to ongoing training and learning throughout the social workers'
careers. The notion of kinship care, raised by the Committee,
is a case in point.
Although the GSCC does not have responsibility
for workforce planning, we take the view that supervision by senior
practitioners is essential to a social worker's development. Therefore
the Committee's consideration of how important it is that experienced
social workers are retained in frontline children's services would
One point of clarification to the transcript
is that at Q400, the figure of 550,000 referrals is for England
rather than the UK. The GSCC's remit covers only England.
Research which may be of interest to the Committee
in preparing its report:
"Care Profiling Study"
Judith Masson, Julia Pearce and Kay Bader with Olivia Joyner,
Jillian Marsden and David Westlake, University of Bristol, March
2008. The Ministry of Justice/ University of Bristol study analyses
the characteristics of a sample of nearly 400 cases of care proceedings
involving 682 children that went before the family courts between
2004 and 2007. It found there were overwhelming reasons for social
services taking the children into care, with an average of seven
different risk factors being found in each case.
"Globalisation and Child Welfare",
Professor June Thoburn CBE Lttd, University of East Anglia, 2007,
and Professor Thoburn's submission to the Children, Schools and
Families Committee, which details some of the reasons for difference
between countries which the Committee may find of interest following
their visit to Denmark. Professor Thoburn is Vice-Chair of the
GSCC, although the research is written in a separate capacity.
If the GSCC can be of any further assistance
to the Committee in addition to the oral evidence and written
evidence we submitted focusing on workforce issues, please do
not hesitate to contact us.
I look forward to reading the Committee's report.
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