Social work bill ‘does nothing to address the real problems’

UNISON joins professional associations and academic bodies to condemn plans to give ministers control over social work regulation in England

UNISON and social work campaigners have urged to the government to scrap part of its Children and Social Work Bill that would give ministers the power to bypass professional regulators and take control of the profession themselves.

The bill is currently going through Parliament and would apply to adult and children’s social work in England.

A joint statement by five groups, including UNISON and the British Association of Social Workers, warns that the bill “does nothing to address some of the real problems that affect social work services today”.

But it does pave the way for “sweeping changes to the regulation and oversight of social work” and children’s social care, but with details to be filled in by separate regulations.

UNISON and the other signatories have particular concerns over plans for a new regulatory body to replace the independent Health and Care Professions Council, sitting inside government and answerable to ministers.

This would mean that the secretary of state for education would control the professional standards and fitness to work of social workers, as well as deciding the criteria for approving education providers.

The joint statement urges the government to drop this idea which, it warns, would mean less trust between social workers and Whitehall and “could have a negative impact on the extent to which social workers feel ownership of improvement initiatives and, paradoxically, could stifle the very development of the profession which government states it wants to see.”

The signatories also want plans to allow councils to be exempted from existing children’s social care laws so that they can “test new ways of working”.

  • See the full joint statement from UNISON, the British Association of Social Workers, the Association of Professors of Social Work, the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee, the Social Work Action Network and the Social Workers Union