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New set of standards to be developed for children’s social work

A new set of professional standards is to be introduced for children’s social work in England to help restore confidence in the service, the education secretary has announced.

Nicky Morgan, speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester, said the changes will drive culture change and refocus on the profession on the “front line”.

She said the Jay Report into Rotherham – which found that 1,400 children were groomed and abused over a 16-year period – showed 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.

Part of the new standards will be a new assessment and accreditation system for three levels of professional practice for social workers.

The first level will be a new approved child and family practitioner status, which will be an essential requirement for any social worker holding cases of children in need, children at risk of harm and looked-after children.

Morgan said this will “set a stretching new standard for all those employed in the most demanding front-line social work roles”.

There will also be an assessed and accredited supervisor status, so that “front-line workers are managed and supervised by those with the knowledge and skills needed to shape that practice excellence”.

The final level will be a new role of a social work practice leader, which will be a part of senior leadership teams and “focused 100% on the quality of front-line practice in a local area”. This role will be accountable for the quality of practice and will complement the corporate role of director of children’s services, the education secretary said.

The education secretary acknowledged that the introduction of new higher standards would be challenging.

“But it’s the right thing to do. There is not a child or family in the country who does not have the right to expect a high-quality practitioner to deal with their case,” she argued.

Morgan has asked Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for England, to develop the new assessment and accreditation systems for the three levels of practice. All three are to be based on the new statement of the knowledge and skills needed for children’s social work which Trowler will publish next month.

A decision on when and how to roll out the new standards will be made next year.

The move to introduce new professional standards for children’s social work follows a number of high profile cases of child sexual exploitation across the country, such as the Rotherham and Rochdale grooming scandals.

As PSE previously reported, the report from the inquiry launched in the wake of what happened in Rochdale found that child sexual exploitation is a “social norm” in Greater Manchester.

Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said of the speech: “Any national measures designed to improve the quality leadership in social work at a local level are most welcome. We broadly welcome these announcements today and look forward to future involvement in turning these policies into reality. However the government should be careful about over prescription around new structures to allow us the flexibility to respond to arrangements and needs in our localities.”

(Image: c. Joe Giddens PA Wire)

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