Choosing an independent social worker or consultant

Local authorities, law firms, health bodies, trusts, charities and private individuals are just some of the clients that use the BASW Independents Directory to find a social work specialist.

Seeking the services of an independent practitioner may be a very new experience for you and you may be doing it at a time of great personal stress.

Here are some helpful hints to consider when making that decision:

Your brief:

Be clear about what work you need support with.  The clearer you can be about what it is you need, the more likely it is that you will find the right person for the job.

Knowledge & Skills:

What knowledge and skills do you think they will need for the task you have in mind?

Timeframe:

  • When do you need the work done?
  • Are there clear timescales for this such as a Court date?
  • Is this something that can be negotiated?

Bear in mind that many of the people listed in this Directory will be very busy and whilst they will do their best to accommodate you, they will also want to make sure that they do justice to your situation and that of their existing customers too. Always check that the practitioner can give sufficient time to the task at the time when it is needed.

It is also worth considering whether the length of time you think is needed for the work is realistic. The worker may be able to give you comparisons with other similar work they have done and what was actually involved – sometimes there is more to it than meets the eye.

Budget

There is no nationally agreed scale of charges for independent social work or consultancy. Every individual listed within the Directory will operate their own business and will have set and/or negotiate their respective fees largely based on their professional experience along with their applicable business overheads. Other considerations that will reflect rates are:

  • Nature of the work
  • How much needs to be done and the timeframe in which it will need to be completed
  • What level of skill and experience the professional has.

In line with The Code of Ethics: Addendum, additional guidance for independent social workers

BASW does require that members price professional services in a way that both reflects professional and market value and is fair to customers.

BASW also requires that members advise customers of all fee rates and charges before beginning to provide professional services and to charge only for hours and services contracted and provided.

An independent professional is exactly that – independent. Their remit is to give an impartial professional opinion based on the evidence and in line with their professional duties and relevant legislation and policy.

Sometimes this opinion may not be quite what you had hoped to hear and it is important to understand that if this does happen, you will still be expected to pay for that opinion and for the work done.

Checks

Regulatory bodies maintain and publish a register of social workers who meet their standards.  They also act if there are serious concerns about an individual on their register.  You can verify someone's registration online with the relevant regulatory body.

  • England: Health & Care Professions Council
  • Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Social Care Council
  • Scotland: Scottish Social Services Council
  • Wales: Care Council for Wales 

Put the agreement in writing

It is important that you and the person you choose to do the work both have a clear and shared understanding of what you have agreed. One way to formalise this is to have a written agreement that makes this clear. This could be a formal contract (for larger projects), a written proposal and project plan or simply a letter or email.

In some situations, such as a solicitor instructing an independent social worker in connection with preparing a report for the Court, there will be a formal letter of instruction. Whatever format is used, the basics that should be covered are:

  • What is the task?
  • When should it be done?
  • What are the costs and terms of business, including staged payments where relevant?
  • When/how will you review progress?
  • How will you communicate with each other and how often?

It is a matter for negotiation whether you do this or whether the professional does it. The important thing is to have something in writing that all parties are happy with.