Skip to main content

Social Work Regulatory Reform: Update to Policy Statement

This policy statement has been tabled in support of government amendments to Part 2 of the Children and Social Work Bill. It updates the policy statement and withdraws the indicative regulations published in June this year. It sets out the government’s revised plans to establish a new, bespoke professional regulator for social workers that will be known as Social Work England.

Social workers play a critical role in our society. They deliver a range of vital services from safeguarding the most vulnerable to supporting those with complex needs to live life to the full and promote better life chances. Without them, children and adults would be left at risk of abuse or neglect, and those who struggle with the activities of daily life we all take for granted, would be left to fend for themselves. Supporting people in such situations is not an easy task. Every day social workers deal with complex and fraught situations that require a great depth of skill, knowledge, understanding and empathy.

The consequences for people when social workers are not able to fulfil their role competently can be catastrophic. It is in order to protect the public from these risks that social workers have to meet standards defining acceptable conduct and competence, overseen by a regulator – currently the Health and Care Professions Council. Recent (2014) independent reviews by Sir Martin Narey and Professor David Croisdale-Appleby point to the fact that there are improvements that could be made in the current regulatory system for the social work profession. Government therefore wants to establish a new specialist regulator for social work that is focused on protecting the health and wellbeing of those vulnerable children, families and adults who need social work support. It will have a sole focus on the unique needs and role of this profession and will bring a positive emphasis to social work.

Our initial plan was to set up a new regulator as part of government - an Executive Agency of the Department for Education - but with joint governance between that Department and the Department of Health. Concerns have been raised about this approach in the House of Lords and in our conversations with a wider range of stakeholders. We have considered these concerns and have accepted that while the intention of setting up a bespoke regulator is the right one, our plan of having the regulator as part of government was not the best way to deliver this aim.