Concern as new social work plan goes ahead

Health chiefs are to press ahead with a new ‘out of hours’ system for social workers — despite the objections of professionals.

And it has emerged the concerns of social workers over new arrangements for ‘out of hours’ emergency cover are set to be discussed by the Assembly’s health committee.

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said he hopes to raise the issue when the Stormont committee resumes following the summer recess.

The likely Stormont debate emerged as the Health and Social Care Board, which drew up the proposals, yesterday decided to move ahead with their plans due to come into effect early next year.

“This service will strengthen and develop the capacity of Health and Social Care Trusts to avail of social workers outside of normal working hours,” a Board statement said.

It came after the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week revealed that the current system where a number of social workers are on call is being replaced by smaller office-based teams which will both take calls and respond had sparked concerns amongst professionals.

Gerry Madden, deputy chair of the NI Association of Social Workers, said: “The current system does basically work quite well and we cannot understand the headlong rush into a system which the professionals working on the ground say will not work.”