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High level support for regulator to recognise social work in its name

The body which will take on responsibilities from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) after its planned abolition in 2012 should have social work reflected in its name, according to Moira Gibb, chief executive of Camden Council and chair of the Social Work Reform Board.

Her comments about the title of the Health Professionals Council, which will assume the role of regulation from the GSCC, echo a demand made by BASW since the coalition announced its plans for regulatory reform in July.

Addressing the BASW’s Independents’ Conference on 18 September, Ms Gibb said the abolition on the GSCC was “was a bit of a blow and surprise”, admitting that she “hadn’t even heard of the HPC” prior to the announcement. She told the independent social work audience: “I think social work should be reflected in the name. Social work will be the largest professional group represented by the HPC.”

The chief executive of Camden Council also used the speech to caution local authorities against using impending public sector cuts as an excuse not to implement reforms to improve support for social work professionals. “My sense is that employers who have taken this seriously will continue to make improvements. Those who haven’t will use cuts as an excuse not to do it.

“These are challenging times for everyone and if we lose the morale in the workforce, we will probably lose more than we will lose in terms of financial cost,” said Ms Gibb. Ms Gibb also used her keynote speech to highlight the current workload of the Social Work Reform Board.

“I’m sure some of you have a good understanding but I have met lots of social workers and been surprised by the lack of awareness about what’s going on.” She described the main concerns of most social work professionals, based on the findings of a wind-ranging consultation process, as widespread staff shortages, inconsistent and inadequate support, education and training not being consistently delivered and the fact that there was no focus on responsibility for the health or image of the profession.

Ms Gibb added that the calibre of entrants to the profession needed to be addressed, as in the past “a difficult life experience was enough to help others” whereas this was no longer sufficient. High quality practice placements and supervision in practice were essential to good social work, she said, explaining that the Taskforce had recognised the need to offer better support for NQSWs.

On the subject of a College of Social Work, another recommendation of the Taskforce which Ms Gibb also chaired, she said a College would be tasked with improving the public understanding of social work and getting success stories into the public domain.

Relations between the new UK government and the SWRB remain positive, Ms Gibb suggested, explaining that the children’s minister Tim Loughton had attended the first post-election meeting and that the minister for social care Paul Burstow is set to attend the next meeting.

She added that education secretary Michael Gove had not said many nice things about his predecessor but he had recognised that Ed Balls did a good job on social work.