New professional standards for children’s social workers in England

The Government is introducing a new set of professional standards to drive “culture change” in children’s social work, in the wake of scandals including the revelation of widespread sexual abuse in Rotherham.

Announcing plans for a new assessment and accreditation system for three levels of professional practice for children’s social workers in England, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the changes would be accompanied by new freedoms for practitioners to innovate.

Ms Morgan (pictured) said that the Jay Report into Rotherham – which found that 1,400 children were groomed and abused over a 16-year period – found that there had been too much focus in social work departments on “reviews and audits and plans”, rather than frontline engagement with the young people and their families.

Speaking to the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, she said it was “obvious” that culture change was needed to ensure that social workers’ activities are “consistently and unapologetically in the best interests of children and young people” and that “all concerns are taken seriously and acted upon by every tier of the profession”.

A new Approved Child and Family Practitioner accreditation will set “stretching” standards for all social workers dealing with cases of children in need or at risk of harm and children in care, said Ms Morgan.

Meanwhile, an Assessed and Accredited Supervisor status will be created for those managing frontline social workers.

And a new role of Social Work Practice Leader will operate alongside local authorities’ directors of children’s services, with a focus on frontline practices in the local area.

Ms Morgan said that the three new standards will be based on a statement of knowledge and skills needed for children’s social work, due for publication next month. Details of the standards will be developed over the next few months and decisions made next year on the timetable for rolling them out.

“This is an opportunity for the profession as a whole and for individuals within it,” said Ms Morgan.

“It is an opportunity to ensure that social work – like other professions in this country – is held in high regard, known for its high standards, and its focus on expert practice.

“It is an opportunity to have a system which invests less in people watching poor frontline practice – through increasing layers of audit and governance – and invests more in people doing excellent front line practice.

“An opportunity for the children’s social work profession to shape its own destiny.”

The Education Secretary also announced that the Government is extending funding for a scheme designed to attract top graduates into social work for a third year, leading to a trebling in the number of recruits over the period.

“I want social work to be celebrated, I want it to be an attractive profession that more and more bright graduates will consider pursuing,” said Ms Morgan.

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