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BASW England report – September 2013

A barrage of consultations from the Department for Education and the Crown Prosecution Service have kept members of our Children and Families Reference Group and Child Sexual Exploitation Practice Group very busy over the summer. Among the consultations on which BASW will be responding are Interim Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse and Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Care.

There are also a number of consultations on children in residential care, a topic that chimes with a parliamentary inquiry into residential children’s homes spearheaded by the Education Select Committee.

At the same time, BASW continues to lobby on the Children and Families Bill, specifically the 26 week timescale for care proceedings and the removal of giving due consideration to ethnicity in adoption.

Daniel Pelka
The conclusion of the trial of Daniel Pelka’s mother and stepfather provoked a strong public reaction given the harrowing details of the abuse Daniel suffered. The BASW England team and a number of BASW members responded to a variety of media requests. We anticipate that the Serious Case Review will be published during September, which will no doubt create further debate about child protection services in England.

As a member of the project advisory team, Sue Kent was not surprised to read the recent NCB research findings about the role of Independent Reviewing Officers, which suggest heavy caseloads, a lack of time to carry out work between reviews and an inability to shape services are contributing to the these professionals not being able to support children in care as they would like. It is an issue BASW has been concerned about for some time.

Duty of candour
One of the recommendations of the Francis report on the failings in Stafford hospitals was that there should be a ‘Duty of Candour’ on NHS staff to blow the whistle on abuses. In summary, the report stated that where poor care has caused, or may have caused death or serious harm to a patient, statutory duties should be introduced requiring healthcare providers and professionals to be candid about the treatment or care they believe or suspect has caused death or serious injury to a patient.

As part of the process of consultation on the implementation of this duty, the Government has asked the Professional Standards Authority (the regulator of regulators, of which the Health and Care Professions Council is one) to work closely with regulatory bodies to examine what more can be done to encourage professionals to be candid with their patients at all times.

BASW England has consulted with a number of our reference groups and has compiled a report, which has been sent to the Professional Standards Authority (find it at Working on the report sparked a really good debate about how much a Duty of Candour can and should apply to social care. It also raised issues about how difficult members find it to whistleblow about poor practice, as well as the complex area of the degree of culpability of organisations and employers for poor practice. We know that cultures where reflection and good supervision are not encouraged lead to poor practice, yet are difficult for individuals to challenge. To sum up, BASW believes that a Duty of Candour should also apply in social care. 

Mental capacity
Members of BASW’s Mental Health Reference Group are compiling evidence to submit to a House of Lords committee reviewing the Mental Capacity Act in the autumn. This report will be available on the BASW website.

Attending and co-ordinating a workshop at the National Organisation of Practice Teachers (NOPT) Conference this summer, Sue Kent found that students and newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) across the country are receiving a variable level of service. Everyone is still coming to terms with the new HCPC regulations governing practice education and appear to be hoping that this role will be strengthened and increasingly valued across the profession.

Ruth bids farewell
And finally, we are giving the last word to Ruth Cartwright who sadly parts company with BASW this month.

“Leaving BASW after eight and a half years has led to much sorting out of paper and computer records. It’s a bit of a slog but also reacquaints one with pieces of work and activities one had almost forgotten about.

"I had quite a few consultations to look at, where BASW responds to Government and other initiatives, putting the social work view and explaining how plans could affect social workers and service users. There have been such grand titles of Westminster documents over the years – A Better Future, Shaping the Future of Care, A Quality Future, New Horizons and Transformation … you can easily envisage the covers of so many of these – a strong healthy couple and a child on the top of a hill, gazing out over the sunlit plains. 

"I’ve seen ‘em come; I’ve seen ‘em go. Bold initiatives, subverted and diluted when put into practice because of a lack of thought about the detail, a lack of resources, managerialism. Grand schemes put forward by organisations in their pomp which now do not even exist (CSCI, GSCC). Good ideas which have come to nothing because of political changes (the National Care Service, anybody?).

"And through all the changes that new legislation, regulations, rules, policies, plans and procedures bring in their wake, social workers have continued to work dedicatedly with service users and their welfare. As I leave, I would like to pay tribute to all of you who have remained client-focused and true to social work values. Keep up the good work!”

Thank you Ruth, you will be greatly missed by all your colleagues in the England team and unlike some of the grand initiatives you mentioned, we would like to emphasise how you have made a significant difference to the work of BASW, particularly in raising the profile of social work with adults.