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BASW’s concern at social work regulation plans

BASW has voiced concerns that the government is pressing ahead with its plans to transfer the regulation of social work in England to the Health Professions Council (HPC) without its involvement.

In a letter sent in early September, the care services minister Paul Burstow sets out the rationale for abolishing the General Social Care Council (GSCC) and moving its functions to the HPC and says he will set up a group to oversee the transfer.

But in a written response, copied to care councils across the UK, BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson said he had hoped BASW would be invited to join the group.

The group will be chaired by the chief executive of the Council of Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, Harry Clayton, who will advise the Department of Health and Department for Education on issues including how to retain the ‘distinctiveness of the social work profession’ within the HPC regime.

Mr Dawson said BASW has worked with chief executives of the GSCC on ‘numerous occasions to try to help them change an organisation which was oppressive as well as inefficient into something better’.

Mr Dawson also cautioned that the £76 annual fee that social workers will be expected to pay the HPC, an increase of more than 150%, may impact on the willingness of practitioners to also pay for membership of a future College of Social Work.

‘Social work is not a health profession. It will be completely unacceptable for the HPC to take on the regulation of something as universally significant as the social work profession without substantial changes to its operating procedures and culture,’ he warned.

‘This should be reflected in a change of name to the Social Work and Health Professions Council. There is no way that you will achieve your aim of maintaining the confidence of the profession without taking this small but significant step,’ he added.

He also commented on suggestions that social work students would no longer be registered once regulation is transferred to the HPC, describing this as inconsistent with the policies of care councils in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and leaving the public in England less protected.

BASW has no confidence in the ability of a higher education sector, which has admitted to us that it has passed students who should have not been allowed to qualify as social workers, to regulate itself. We insist that the Social Work and Health Professions Council continues with the registration and regulation of social work students,” Mr Dawson wrote.

Hilton Dawson’s letter to minister