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New standards proposals require social workers in England to report resourcing concerns

Draft professional standards also include stronger human rights influence and new expectations on social media use

Social Work England's chief executive Colin Conway and the regulator's chair Lord Patel

Published by Professional Social Work magazine – 22 February 2019

Social workers in England will be expected to report any concerns over unsafe resourcing levels in their services, under proposals for a new set of professional standards.

New regulator Social Work England will expect practitioners to tell their employers about any “resourcing or operational difficulties” that might get in the way of safe practice. Social workers will also be expected to tell their employer and Social Work England about “anything that might affect my ability to do my job competently”.

Social Work England is seeking views on the proposals, which are out to consultation until 1st May 2019. They will replace the current Health and Care Professions Council's (HCPC) Standards of Proficiency for social workers when responsibility for regulating the profession transfers to Social Work England. 

Meeting the standards is a condition of registration. Social Work England said they would sit alongside the Professional Capabilities Framework, which is hosted by BASW, and the Knowledge and Skills Statements produced by the chief social workers.

While many of the Social Work England standards are broadly similar to the HCPC’s, there are some marked differences including a stronger emphasis on human rights. The draft emphasises the need for social workers to “respect and promote the human rights, views and wishes of people” and an expectation they will “advocate the rights of people to make informed choices and live the life they choose”.

Expectations on the way social workers use social media are also included in professional standards for the first time, rather than in separate guidance, with a requirement to not use it “unlawfully, unethically, or in a way that brings the profession into disrepute”. 

BASW chief executive Ruth Allen told PSW: “This is a vital consultation for the profession so we’d urge all social workers to get involved and we'll be consulting members for their views.

"We strongly welcome the reference to the PCF and the strengthened commitment to human rights in the proposed standards. The duty to report resourcing difficulties needs to empower social workers to be able to challenge poor working conditions.

"We need to hear views from social workers on whether they feel the proposal would help them do this as we know they are often working in constrained, disempowering contexts. We also need to see it accompanied by stronger duties on employers to be accountable for working conditions and the resources social workers need to practice safely and effectively.” 

Colum Conway, Social Work England’s chief executive, said the standards were developed in “partnership” with people working in and using social work services and with feedback from other UK social work regulators.

“Their advice and guidance has been invaluable but now it’s over to you. For me, striking the balance between safe transition and new challenge is at the core of what we’re trying to achieve with these standards, and we need to hear whether you think the balance is right,” he added.

The standards and consultation details can be viewed here.

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.