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NISCC seeking urgent talks following GSCC abolition plan

The social work regulator in Northern Ireland is to hold talks with political leaders following the surprise announcement earlier this week that the General Social Care Council (GSCC) in England is to be abolished.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) said that the regulator would be meeting with the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety to assess the implications of the decision.

NISCC chair Jeremy Harbison said he hoped the “skills and expertise they [the GSCC] have developed will continue into the new structures” for regulation in England.

Carolyn Ewart, manager of the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers, said the decision to axe the GSCC had been made without consultation and “seemingly out of the blue,” adding: “It is unclear if the NISCC is at risk and I would hope that a similar sudden decision is not taken regarding its future.”

She said NISCC, which was “by and large well-regarded by social workers”, had some unique aspects that included setting standards for the Assessed Year in Employment required of new qualified social workers.

“I would be concerned if the regulatory functions were taken over by a non-social work body,” she added.

News of the planned demise of the GSCC in April 2012 emerged in the Westminster Department of Health’s ‘Review of arm’s length bodies (ALBs) to cut bureaucracy’, a move aimed at securing projected savings of over £180m by 2014/15.

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.’

BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson called for the new regulatory organisation to be known as ‘the Health Professions and Social Work Council”.

He added: “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 fulfill 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.