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SWU and BASW England respond to SWE consultation on amendments to rules, electronic communication, and remote hearings

This joint consultation response was an outstanding example of how a collaborative approach can be much more than the sum of its parts

At the beginning of this year Social Work England (SWE) held a consultation on amendments to rules, electronic communication, and remote hearings that it had implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. This consultation proposed that SWE retain the changes introduced during the pandemic to take advantage of digital communication, as well the benefits to work and efficiency as a regulator, and included further minor changes that clarified how SWE communicates with social workers.

The Social Workers Union (SWU) and BASW England welcomed SWE’s consultation on this topic as almost all SWE hearings for both fitness to practice and registration appeals have been held remotely since March 2020.

Members of the SWU and BASW England teams along with joint membership met on February 8th to share views on the amendments proposed by SWE and the consultation questions. During the meeting attendees discussed topics including the importance of choice and consent regarding the format of social workers’ hearings and appeals, the need of more and clearer communication from the regulator, the potential negative impacts that the rule changes would have on people with protected characteristics, impacts on social workers’ mental health, and concerns around social workers being asked for access to personal data including medical or police records.

Senior A&R Adviser Colin Anderson said, “The recent joint Social Work England consultation between the Social Workers Union and the BASW England Team and joint membership was an outstanding example of how a collaborative approach can be much more than the sum of its parts.  As a co-chair of the meeting I was struck by the knowledgeable input from attendees and the fact their inputs were often based on their direct experience of the approach taken by the profession’s regulator, added a dimension to the consultation that may otherwise have been missed.  One particular aspect stood out for me and that was a thread running through the consultation relating to the impact that the regulator’s long drawn-out processes have on the mental health of registered social workers and quite probably those close family members also impacted. 

“As someone who advocates directly on behalf of BASW/SWU members with the regulator it has been a concern of mine for some time that Social Work England, like the HCPC before it, takes far too long to assess and investigate the referrals it receives.  Cases taking 2 to 3 years to reach a conclusion – and occasionally longer – is sadly not uncommon.  The regulator is aware of this themselves and it has recently been acknowledged by the sponsoring government department, who have provided SWE with significant additional funding this year specifically to address these delays.  As a Union we will continue to monitor SWE’s performance on timescales as it is I believe the single most important factor in addressing the concerns expressed by members during the consultation in relation to the harm done to a registered social worker’s mental health.”

SWU works in partnership with BASW England to protect social work professionals in their workplace. Having a professional association and trade union working together is important for the social work profession. Therefore, this response should be considered as the official views of both organisations.

Click here to view the joint SWU and BASW England response to this SWE consultation.