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Revised standards should impose new ethical and learning requirements on care providers

BASW has called for a stronger emphasis on ethical practice and on the role of social workers in shaping and commissioning care services. The Association was responding to plans to overhaul the National Occupational Standards for Commissioning, Procurement and Contracting in Care services, changes which could emerge as early as February 2014.

Submitting its response to the consultation on revisions to the existing standards, BASW said the prevalence of private, profit making contractors in care services meant there was an urgent need to strengthen commissioning arrangements so that they are “underpinned by ethically based practice”. The Association highlighted the fact that 80% of residential and domiciliary care services and a growing proportion of fostering provision – more than half in some areas – are now run by private sector providers.

The revised standards are being developed by Skills for Care & Development, which is prioritising the need for “new ways of working and value for money” in how services are commissioned. It says that £25 billion is currently spent on the commissioning of health and social care services across the UK.

Skills for Care & Development (SfC&D) says reform is especially necessary because of significant changes to the commissioning environment since the standards were last updated in 2007/08. It pointed to the increased emphasis on collaborative working, joint commissioning, person-directed care, the use of telecare and social enterprises as examples of how the market for care services is evolving.

In its nine point response to the summer consultation period, BASW said social work knowledge and skills should be involved in “all levels of commissioning”. The response suggested that “Castlebeck is a good example of what can go wrong if this does not happen”, pointing to the high profile owner of care homes at the centre of an abuse scandal for evidence of the need for social workers to be involved in service commissioning.

BASW’s response continued: “The standards need to reflect the realities of the different motivations of organisations, particularly as many are funded by venture capital companies, quite often based outside of the UK who do not share the same principles or [adhere to BASW’s] Code of Ethics.”

The Association also called for SfC&D to ensure the revised standards include the need for care providers to offer “reflective, professional supervision, which contributes to CPD” and for supervision to be built in to the monitoring and evaluation processes.

Picking up a key tenet of the Berwick review into patient safety in the NHS, published earlier this year, BASW called for all providers commissioned to undertake care services to recognise the need to be “learning organisations”. The response, submitted to SfC&D in August, stated: “Commissioners should expect providers to demonstrate that they are learning organisations as described in the Berwick Review (2013) and as such have a culture of openness and include in their evaluations learning from mistakes.”

View BASW’s response in full