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Blueprint for future of child and family social work unveiled

Date:1 AUG 2014
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Journals Manager + Online Editor
Chief Social Worker for Children unveils the knowledge and skills statement, a new blueprint for the future training of social workers.

A new blueprint for the future training and education of child and family social workers is today unveiled by the Chief Social Worker for Children, Isabelle Trowler, as part of the most significant transformation to the profession in a generation.

For the first time ever, the knowledge and skills statement sets out in one place what child and family social workers need to know and be able to do, acting as the cornerstone of the Chief Social Worker’s drive to overhaul the training of the profession.

The publication coincides with the government launch today of plans for a new gold standard for social workers supporting vulnerable families and children at risk of abuse or neglect - a move that will set a clear and high bar for the profession.

The new approved child and family practitioner status will ensure the highest levels of public protection for our most vulnerable children. The specialist license will only be awarded after completing a rigorous ‘pass or fail’ test based on the knowledge and skills outlined by the Chief Social Worker.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler, said:

'I’m determined to ensure we earn the public’s respect and confidence in our profession by ensuring that every child and family social worker is properly supported to do the job society needs them to do. Having absolute clarity about what a social worker needs to know and be able to do and testing that knowledge and skill against a national standard is a critical part of this ambition.'
Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, said:

'Having grown up with around 90 foster children and worked as a family lawyer in the care system for over a decade, I’ve seen up close and personal the pressures that social workers are under - and also the wonders they can work in the most desperate circumstances.'
These new measures announced today will help set social work on a whole new path to success - setting the very highest standards for social workers, providing greater assurance to the public and most importantly ensuring the very best for our children.
Today’s measures follow the recent publication of Sir Martin Narey’s review into the education of social workers, which called for greater rigour in training, a sharper focus on practical skills and places for only the very best students.

Sir Martin Narey said:

'Perhaps the most important of my recommendations from my report on social work education was that we should have a brief summary of the things every newly qualified children’s social worker should be able to explain. Isabelle Trowler started work on this immediately after my report was published and the statement reflects discussions with practitioners, academics and others. I think it has the potential to significantly improve the capacity and confidence of newly qualified social workers and I hope that the response to the consultation is constructive and prolific.'
The knowledge and skills statement will now be subject to public consultation for 10 weeks. The statement will set out what child and family social workers are expected to know, including being able to:

  • identify the full range of risks to children - including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect - and know how to protect children
  • support families by strengthening their relationships, resilience and access to resources
  • understand the impact of adult mental ill health, substance misuse and domestic violence on family functioning and child development
  • plan for permanence for children who can no longer live at home
  • help keep children safe from harmful practices in specific communities such as female genital mutilation and child marriage
The Chief Social Worker for Adults, Lyn Romeo, is currently developing a complementary knowledge and skills statement for adult social workers and will be consulting on this shortly.

The government will also fund a third year of the support programme for child and family social workers in their first assessed year in employment aimed at developing their skills and improving their confidence in dealing with the most difficult and complex cases - a brand new commitment linked worth over £6m.

The announcements reflect the Chief Social Workers’ and the government’s commitment to improve the quality of social work and overhaul the child protection system to make it more effective. To date, we have:

  • launched the innovation programme offering local authorities and partner agencies the opportunity to completely redesign their child and family social work systems
  • launched the new fast-track frontline qualification programme for child and family social workers and continued our Step Up to Social Work programme, and alongside the Department of Health, spent more than £400 million on the social work bursary to make sure there are enough highly skilled staff to meet demand
  • published revised statutory guidance which makes clear the responsibilities of different professions in promoting the welfare of our most vulnerable children and protecting them from harm
  • overhauled the system of serious case reviews so social workers are able to learn lessons from serious child protection incidents and improve decision making
  • taken tough action against those councils whose child protection services are judged inadequate
The consultation can be accessed here.