Department for Education
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Ambitious reforms to transform the social work profession

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Health Secretary Andy Burnham today announced the Government’s acceptance of a radical package of recommendations from the final Social Work Task Force report, to transform social work and public understanding of social workers’ crucial contribution to our society.

Under the package, every social worker will benefit from:

• Reforms to initial training, so all students receive good quality education and practice learning placements, equipping them for the challenges they will face when they begin to practice;

• A new ‘licensing’ system which will introduce an assessed probationary year in employment for new social work graduates, during which they will receive extra support;

• A revamped framework for continuing professional development, underpinned by a practice-based masters qualification, so all social workers can keep their skills up to date and develop specialist knowledge;

• A career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in front line roles as well as in management;

• A new standard for employers to ensure all employers put in place high quality supervision, time for continuing professional development and manageable work loads;

• Pay reform - unions will work together with employers in local government to ensure social workers receive the appropriate pay for their work and that the pay reflects their career development and progression;

• A new and independent College for Social Work led and owned by the profession, which must establish a stronger voice for social work and exercise appropriate influence over national policy making and public debate. Ministers will support it to become the first Royal College of Social Work as soon as possible;

• All this in addition to the reforms to the Integrated Children’s System the Task Force has already proposed and the Government has accepted. Over the next few months, as local authorities implement the changes they should significantly reduce the bureaucracy social workers experience on the front line.

The Secretaries of State announced that the package also includes:

• a new campaign to improve the public understanding of social work; and

• a new system to help employers better plan and forecast the demand and workload of their social workers

The 15 recommendations, which taken together mean there will be root and branch reform of the profession, were set out in the Social Work Task Force’s final report, building a safe, confident future. Chaired by Moira Gibb, the Task Force comprised academics, expert practitioners and charities and was established by the Government in December 2008

The new package follows the £58million Social Work Transformation Fund for children’s social work announced in May 2009, which included a new recruitment campaign, the first phase of which was fronted by celebrities including Goldie and Samantha Morton. This and the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s campaign has led to more than 50,000 people expressing an interest in becoming a social worker.

Over the next two years the Government is investing £109m in the social work workforce with the aim of improving outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said:

“Nobody can underestimate the difficult but vital job that social workers across the country carry out every day, but all the evidence shows reform is needed. We have recognised that and made a good start but we need to go further and faster – because nothing is more important than protecting a child from harm.

“The comprehensive reform programme announced today is a watershed moment for social workers, that promises to transform the future of the profession. The public rightly want to know that social workers are properly trained and well supported. This is the best opportunity we have got to build a professional, well trained and respected workforce and everyone including social workers should work together on this.

“There is no ‘quick fix’, but over the last year there has been a lot of constructive debate about the training, support and supervision that social workers need and I am confident these proposals, based on the firm evidence from the Task Force, will really strengthen the profession.”

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:

“Social workers contribute enormously to the lives of individuals and society as a whole – our own families might need their help in thefuture.

"Good social workers make a significant difference to the lives of older people and adults who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances by delivering personalised services.

“Through this package of measures people who train and work as social workers will be given the best possible support through out their career.”

A Social Work Reform Board will be set up to take forward today’s recommendations and to work alongside the Government in delivering change to the profession. Moira Gibb, chair of the Social Work Taskforce, has accepted the role of chair on the Reform Board.

In early 2010, the Government will set out an implementation plan for the social work reform programme, to be overseen by the Reform Board, working in partnership with the profession. This will include setting out how reform will be resourced and changes to legislation that will be needed.

Chair of the Social Work Task Force, Moira Gibb said:

“Over the last year the Social Work Task Force has been listening to the concerns of service users and social workers, and those who work with them about the difficulties social work faces. The profession, knocked by widespread public criticism in individual cases has been low on the esteem and self-belief needed to drive forward the improvements required to make social work the high quality profession we know it can become.

“Working with the building blocks set out in our interim report, we have put forward a comprehensive reform programme, to help transform the social work profession. I wish to thank the many contributors to our research and am delighted that the Government has accepted in full our programme of reform. As Chair of the Social Work Reform Board I look forward to working with others to drive these important changes forward.”

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society and deputy chair of Social Work Task Force said:

“This report sets out a very clear and very ambitious programme for reform. It also represents a significant challenge to everyone associated with Social Work: we either take this opportunity to radically improve the situation facing front-line practitioners, or we risk letting the profession crumble before our eyes.”

Following a report from the Social Work Task Force in June 2008, ministers have already accepted the recommendations for improvements to the Integrated Children’s System and the implementation of these improvements is already under way.

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'
1. The Social Work Task Force was announced as part of the Government’s 2020 Children and Young People’s Workforce Strategy announced in December 2008:
2. A safer, stronger future: Final Report of the Social Work Task Force, can be found:
3. The letter from the Secretaries of State to Moira Gibb can be found:
4. The Social Work Transformation Fund included:
• sponsoring 200 university places from September
• starting a new recruitment campaign specifically targeting social workers who may have left the profession to give the current workforce a boost
• rolling out the successful Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) pilots to all new children and families' social workers joining statutory and voluntary services from this September
• funding a practice-based Masters in social work to start in early 2011 so that all social workers can continue to develop further their knowledge, skills and expertise
• introducing a new Advanced Social Work Professional Status programme to create senior practice-focused roles to keep excellent and experienced social workers in children’s services
• coaching and development for frontline social worker managers to boost leadership and management skills.

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