My vision for child and family social work

By Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for England (Children & Families)

Featured article - 28 June 2016

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Social work reform has been an important topic in recent weeks following the introduction of the Children and Social Work Bill on 19 May.

I recently spoke at a SCIE lunchtime seminar about my vision for child and family social work. The Bill and its contents are one part of achieving that vision, so let’s start there.

I suspect that the headline proposal for the majority of social workers is going to be those clauses allowing government to legislate for a new regulatory body for social workers. This is important for all social workers, and it is very much a joint proposition between the Education and Health departments.

The body will ensure the quality of social work education continues to rise with a much greater emphasis on post-qualification education and practice. It is still early days but it will be a really important body with responsibilities ranging from overseeing the delivery of child and family social worker accreditation to approving courses for and registering Approved Mental Health Professionals and Best Interest Assessors.

The Bill will also allow the provision of greater support to young people in care making the transition to adulthood, to make clear the duties of the local authority and extend the offer of support from a personal adviser to all care leavers up to age 25. Central to this will be the new corporate parenting principles and ‘local offer for care leavers’, which set out the responsibilities we have as a country towards all those in public care throughout childhood, towards independence and into young adulthood.

The Bill also sets out the government’s intentions for ensuring high quality decisions about permanent care, making sure they are always in the best interests of the child and take account of the impact of the abuse and neglect they have experienced.

The Bill represents only a part of the government’s wider vision for social care reform, and in the Department for Education alone, there is a great deal going on.

The government is committing nearly £200m to innovation and improvement over the next four years and the opportunities for innovation and improvement keep growing. We received over 70 applications in the first round of wave 2, and the results of the independent evaluation of wave 1 projects will be published in the next few months.

We have been saying as social workers that we must be trusted to use our professional judgement rather than be forced to follow the rule book, which often fails to take into account the complexity of our work. The Bill will give our best performing local authorities, including the recently announced Partners in Practice, the opportunity to test new approaches to improving services through a Power to Innovate.

Of course, there is much more going on around the assessment and accreditation process, Teaching Partnerships and more. There will be plenty of opportunity for social workers and other stakeholders to be involved in the various reforms as they progress and I will be continuing to visit local authorities around the country and engaging with as many of them as I can.

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