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Financial independence for GSCC will see costs passed onto social workers

BASW has welcomed plans to redefine the role of the General Social Care Council (GSCC) in a move that would restrict its activities to social work, but warned that a further proposal to make the body ‘financially independent’ of government will mean social workers bearing the cost.

The Department of Health revealed yesterday that the regulator for the profession in England is set to be renamed the General Social Work Council, losing responsibility for the wider social care workforce and itself becoming regulated by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

The plans, outlined in the social care white paper, Building the National Care Service, stated: ‘As with the health regulatory bodies, over time the GSWC will move to financial independence and become independent of government’.

Responding to the news, BASW’s chief executive Hilton Dawson said the ‘clarification and reforms of the GSCC’s role are a positive step’ but cautioned that the move would ultimately mean hit social workers in their pockets. “This move towards greater independence for the GSCC will mean that social workers will have to bear the full cost of funding the GSCC, or General Social Work Council as it will become, in the future. We regard this as inevitable, particularly given the parlous state of public finances.”

Mr Dawson went on to call for the GSCC to support BASW’s push for a “powerful and independent College of Social Work which will work with it to drive up standards which it will have to regulate.”

BASW also questioned the role of the GSCC on the College Development Group, the offshoot of the Social Work Reform Board currently working on an alternative college under the stewardship of the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Mr Dawson said there was a “clear conflict of interest” in allowing the GSCC to take part in discussions about developing a college which could threaten the powers that the regulator currently possesses.

The government’s announcement of its plans for the future of the GSCC pre-empted a separate review of government funded social care workforce organisations, including SCIE, the Children’s Workforce Development Council and Skills for Care.

The Building the National Care Service white paper suggested the development of a National Care Service for supporting the care need of older and disabled people would lead to more joint working between health and caring professionals, with more multi-disciplinary working. It revealed a plan for a new Care Professions Council to take responsibility for enabling the licensing of home care workers, residential care workers and personal assistants away from the General Social Care Council. Although the Scottish Social Care Council began licensing sections of the social care workforce in 2009, the GSCC has consistently shelved proposals to adopt a similar strategy.

In England, the white paper proposed developing ‘a regional demonstration site’ to license all social care workers, before evaluating the scheme to establish whether any particular groups of workers might need compulsory statutory regulation on a national basis.

The Department of Health said it would be discussing with devolved administrations across the UK ‘whether they would wish to participate in a UK-wide scheme’.

The GSCC’s chair Rosie Varley offered a broad welcome to the white paper’s proposals. She said: “It is right that social workers should have their own profession regulator, as exists for each of the other major professions.”