Recognition of our worth as social workers is always welcome – when backed with the intent to create and strengthen new and existing frameworks to support and promote our work, even more so.
That’s why Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan’s announcement of the creation of a new regulatory body for social work is so significant for the entire profession. It demonstrates support for social workers and the ambition to continue to drive up quality, status and regard for our practice, whilst recognising the vital role we play in improving lives for our most vulnerable children, families and adults.
Social work is complex. It involves working with people to understand their lives, using empathy to build relationships, critical analysis and reflection to make life changing decisions to enable people to have better lives. Working with risk, taking a human rights and social justice approach, keeping children, individuals and their families’ wellbeing at the centre is challenging but rewarding work.
The announcement recognises social work’s uniqueness and importance, strengthening our priorities on education, training, social work regulation and practice improvement across children and adults’ social care.
This will enhance a system of regulation which supports a single, unified profession, with an initial qualification giving social workers the freedom to work in many settings and contexts across England and the United Kingdom.
Importantly, however, it will also provide the opportunity for support and recognition of post-qualifying accreditation and specialisms in some of the most complex areas of social work practice, including statutory child and family social work and adult social care.
The accreditation of supervisors and practice leaders will be a significant achievement and will help drive up practice standards across children and adults’ services. The intention is for the new body to provide independent validation of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) for social workers working with adults, which complements the accreditation approach for statutory child and family frontline practitioners.
For more experienced adult social workers, the intention for new arrangements to support a national accreditation function in relation to Best Interest Assessor (BIA) and Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) roles is also to be welcomed. Additionally, I am keen to work with the sector to develop accreditation in specialist areas including dementia and learning disabilities. This will achieve recognition for the contribution social workers make to integrated health and care services. This is all in pursuit of improved outcomes for people, keeping them safe and making the best possible use of available resources.
Recruiting the right people into the profession and supporting them to develop the knowledge and skills needed to improve lives is one of the most important things we can do, so this commitment to strengthen quality and training within our profession is very welcome. This proposal is intended to support improvements in the quality and consistency of social work practice, ongoing professional development and to promote the importance of good supervision, support and leadership for one of the most important professions in the country. Social workers are undertaking positive and life changing work every day.
Hopefully, these arrangements will support our profession as never before – giving it the recognition and support it deserves.