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How the Care Bill will impact on social workers

The implications of changes to care legislation that will affect every adult in England were outlined to social workers.

The Care Bill, which is currently going through the Westminster Parliament before becoming an Act, consolidates a plethora of acts dating back 60 years into one single piece of legislation.

It aims to make clearer the support entitlement of adults and – for the first time, carers – while also placing new duties on local authorities to promote the wellbeing of individuals. Among this, is a new responsibility to provide information and guidance to adults applying for support but who fall short of the eligibility criteria, preventing them reaching crisis point.

Speaking at the Compass Jobs Fair Sharing Excellence in Social Work and Social Care Practice event, Professional Officer Joe Godden welcomed much of the reforms, but added: “Clearly the Act is going to have workload implications for social work and social workers.

“Getting in early and preventing things from escalating is a good thing. The early intervention and community approach is where safeguarding concerns get picked up before it reaches crisis which, in many ways, means we have failed. We need to make sure the social work knowledge about safeguarding is inculcated into the contracts.

“However, the broadening of responsibility to ensure more people are not excluded with the duty to provide information and services for those who fall below the eligibility threshold will have an impact on social workers and workloads.”

Mr Godden also raised concern over new rules embodied in the Act that allow local authorities to outsource assessment functions to non-statutory organisations.

“There is debate about what are the safeguarding implications and conflicts of interests in this. If a provider is assessing for need, can you separate that out from what the provider has got to offer? And could there be a tendency to push up the need of a service user so more money can be spent on it?”

Mr Godden said there was also a danger that cash-strapped councils will see outsourcing as a way of saving money.

“Social work needs to demonstrate good quality assessments may not just be about spending money – it maybe about saving money. This is an argument for having good quality social workers at the heart of the assessment process.”

Other reforms in the Bill include providing a single eligibility criteria across the country; a right to continuity of care for individuals moving between different authorities and a duty of candor for professionals to report poor practice.

An attempt by BASW and other campaigners to include power of entry rights allowing social workers to gain access where there is concern for the wellbeing of an individual even if they do not lack capacity, was rejected by the Government. Such powers are available under Scottish law.