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BASW responds to planned abolition of GSCC

BASW has responded to the Westminster government’s surprise decision to abolish the General Social Care Council and fold its regulatory work into a wider healthcare body, by insisting that the new entity must strongly recognise social work in its title and its focus.

News of the planned demise of the GSCC in April 2012 emerged today in the Department of Health’s ‘Review of arm’s length bodies (ALBs) to cut bureaucracy’. The document revealed details of a plan to reduce ALBs – organisations working at national level, but at ‘arm’s length’ from a government department – from 18 to between eight and ten, securing projected savings of over £180m by 2014/15.

Announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley the review outlines a plan to ‘transfer the regulation of social workers to the Health Professions Council, which will be renamed to reflect its new remit.’

A Department of Health source suggested to BASW England joint manager Ruth Cartwright that the new body could be titled the ‘Health and Care Profession Commission’, a name at odds with a call from BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson for the new regulatory organisation to be known as ‘the Health Professions and Social Work Council”.

Expressing concern at the absence of consultation ahead of the sudden announcement, he said “it is essential that BASW is fully consulted and involved in the construction of this new body”.

He added: “While BASW has advocated with the new government that regulation of the profession must be much leaner and fitter we are concerned that this announcement has come out of the blue.

“The further development of regulation must allow for a statutory role for the UK College of Social Work and we envisage that the enabling legislation which will be required to fulfil this announcement will provide the occasion for the Social Work Act of Parliament for which BASW has been lobbying.”

The proposed April 2012 closure of the GSCC coincides neatly with the planed formal launch of the College of Social Work in March 2012, although how the GSCC’s work – in regulating the social work profession and monitoring standards of higher education provision – will be divided up in the future remains uncertain.

The shift of regulatory responsibility could have an impact on the fees social workers pay to register. The Department of Health source suggested to Ms Cartwright [see blog that fees could rise from £30 a year to as much as £76, in line with fees paid by comparable health sector personnel.

Clearly shocked by the announcement, the GSCC’s chair Rosie Varley said: “We were surprised by this decision. We recognise the economic imperative behind the proposal. However discussions have yet to take place about how this will work, including the costs, benefits and wider consequences. We are seeking an early meeting with the Health Professions Council and the government.”

The ‘Review of arm’s length bodies’ also contained news for the Care Quality Commission, which currently regulates health and adult social care provision. The review recommends retaining the CQC and potentially assuming certain functions from such disparate organisations as the Human Tissue Authority and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

BASW welcomed the retention of the CQC but insisted that before assuming new responsibilities it had to demonstrate its effectiveness in monitoring social care services. Ruth Cartwright said: “The CQC has some way to go to show a good understanding of social work and social care – BASW is always ready to assist it in gaining this increased understanding and urges it to work positively with us and with those who are developing the College.”