Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by the Association of Professors of Social Work (CSWB 57)

1. Introduction

This submission is from the Association of Professors of Social Work.

1.1 The purpose of the Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW) is the promotion and development of the discipline of social work through education, research and training for social work and related-matters in the UK. APSW provides a UK-wide forum on social work education for Professors of Social Work. It advises institutions engaged in social work education, promotes social work research and represents the interests and development of social work education to Governments, the media and relevant national and UK bodies.

 

1.2 Membership of the Association of Professors of Social Work includes current and retired professors in departments and schools of social work in HEIs across the UK and professors in other departments or schools whose research is primarily concerned with social work issues.

2. This submission refers to new clauses 2-9 (testing new ways of working) and Part 2, Social work regulation (including new clause 10- ‘Improvement Standards’)

2.1 APSW is a member of the Together for Children network and is in agreement with the concerns raised by Article 39 in their submission on Clauses 2-9. We consider that the revisions do not address the objections to the original clauses raised by a very wide range of organisations and the concerns raised in the debate in the House of Lords. We have not seen any research evidence to support the need for exemptions of this nature and are not aware of comparable experiments in other countries. Moreover, the oft -repeated statement that they are necessary to encourage innovation is curious. Indeed, we are unclear how innovation is being stifled in the current landscape given the continuing investment the DfE has made in its innovation programme, at a time of considerable financial constraint, based in part it would appear upon its satisfaction with the results so far.

2.2 Consistent messages from research undertaken by our members [1] highlight the importance of supporting social workers to do effective practice with families by developing risk sensible cultures and computer systems that are well designed and fit for purpose. Risk averse and defensive practice is fostered by inspection regimes that ‘name and shame’ and precious time that could be spent communicating with children and families is being wasted on inputting data into poorly designed systems.

2.3 Our research experience suggests social workers do not want to be exempted from visiting looked after children for example. Indeed, their frequent complaint is that they do not do enough direct work with children because of the pressure exerted by relentless audit requirements.

2.4 In summary, as has been pointed out by a range of organisations, the revised clauses will promote a post code lottery for children and families and there is no evidence that they will support social workers to carry out the direct work so many of them entered the profession to do. We would urge their deletion.

3. Part 2, Social work regulation

3.1 Some of the changes made in relation to regulation during the Bill’s passage through the Lords are to be welcomed - specifically the move from setting up the Regulator as an Executive Agency of Government to it becoming a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB).

3.2 However, there remains an area of ambiguity that gives rise to concern. The wording in Clause 35 refers only to the ‘Regulator’ and to ‘advisors’ who may be appointed by the regulator. It is important that it is made clear in the wording of the Bill that the Regulator will be supported by a Council, as it will be essential for the profession’s confidence in the Regulator that there is a Council that is comprised of members of the social work profession, social work educators, service users and lay people. This needs to be specified in a Schedule setting up the new body and this should be available in draft during the passage of the Bill.

3.3 New Clause 10 is a late and rather confusing addition introduced after the Bill has been scrutinised by the Lords, and at the same time as a pertinent consultation on assessment and accreditation has just been launched. No rationale has been advanced for the introduction of such a clause. Thus questions need to be asked about a range of issues of which the following are just a sample. How will it support the objective of the profession setting and owning its own standards as argued for, for example, by the Select Committee in its recent report? Where is the role for the professional body BASW in relation to the setting and owning of professional standards? Given that BASW continues to grow in membership (nearly 22 thousand members now) and has been strengthening its professional development functions over the last period, why has an opportunity not been grasped to support it as the independent professional voice of social work? Does this mean the government no longer considers it necessary that social work has an independent professional body for social work that owns and sets its own standards? How will this clause support the crucial task of developing and embedding quality standards for the whole profession across all areas of practice?

3.4 In the face of such issues, we consider this clause should be withdrawn and ask that further consultation be undertaken across the sector on the arrangements for, and monitoring of, quality standards for post-qualifying practice across all areas of social work practice.

Professor B. Featherstone
Co-President
APSW

January 2017


[1] See for example Featherstone, B., White, S. and Morris, K (2014) Re-imagining child protection, Bristol, Policy Press

 

Prepared 9th January 2017