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Moira Gibb: Austerity has impacted on social work reform

The ambitions of the Social Work Task Force set up to reform social work in England in the wake of Peter Connolly’s death have been hampered by austerity cuts.

That was the message from Dame Moira Gibb, appointed in December 2008 by the previous Labour administration to lead the review.

Speaking at Community Care’s Baby P Legacy Five Years On conference, Ms Gibb said: “We always said this would be a long term programme of reform. We knew some of these changes would take a long time to work through. We also didn’t anticipate the level of cuts to local government funding which have been beyond experience, certainly beyond my experience, and with more to come.”

The job of implementing the Task Force's 15 recommendations was handed to the Social Work Reform Board, set up in January 2010 and also chaired by Ms Gibb.

The recommendations included an overhaul of the content and delivery of social work degree courses and raising the calibre of entrants; improved practice placements; the creation of an assessed final year in employment before qualifying as a social worker; a more coherent national framework for career development and setting up a college to give the profession a voice.

The College of Social Work was launched in January 2012, amidst significant controversy over its independence from Government. The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) was introduced in September 2012, though it fell short of Gibb’s recommendation for it to be a condition of qualifying. Concerns have also been raised over its implementation by cash-strapped local authorities.

The Professional Capabilities Framework, outlining the standards of expertise needed as a social worker progresses through their career, was launched in May 2012.

Ms Gibb added: “For me, there is evidence that the training of social workers has improved. I am told universities have signed up to the new recruitment standards.”