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Children's Social Care Reform

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

I am today announcing a series of changes that will radically transform the children’s social care system.

Social workers change lives. They have the ability not just to improve the circumstances of vulnerable children but to change them, and therefore their futures, entirely. That is why supporting social workers, and giving them the tools they need, is a priority for this Government. We must give every child the best start in life and make sure that every child can fulfil their potential—regardless of the circumstances they were born into. And we must make sure our support for the most vulnerable is at the heart of that commitment.

I am, therefore, announcing that:

With the support of my colleague the Secretary of State for Health, it is our intention to establish a new regulatory body for social work to drive up standards with a relentless focus on raising the quality of social work, education, training and practice in both children’s and adult’s social work. It will also set standards for training and oversee the rollout of a new assessment and accreditation system for children and family social workers. Over time, it will become the new regulatory body for social work, in place of the Health and Care Professions Council. It is our intention to bring forward any necessary legislation when parliamentary business allows.

We want to raise the quality of social work and overhaul social worker education and practice to improve the recruitment, retention and development of social workers. We are doing this by providing definitive statements on the knowledge and skills that social workers should have and display at three important levels, approved child and family practitioner; practice supervisor and practice leader and we are rolling out a national, practice-focused, career pathway through the development of an assessment and accreditation system based on the highest levels of skill and knowledge. Schemes like Teach First have helped transform teaching into one of the most prestigious and high status professions in the country, and we must now do the same for social work. And that is why we will be investing a further £100 million into Frontline, and into our specialist course, Step-up.

I am also granting three further councils—Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Islington—freedoms to innovate, to improve frontline children’s social work and to develop new systems of delivering social care and trialling new ways of working with families. These new councils will join the six areas that are already part of the programme, as announced by the Prime Minister in December last year—North Yorkshire, the tri-borough authorities (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea), Leeds, Durham and Richmond and Kingston.

In addition, Government funding of up to £20 million will be made available for a new “What Works Centre”, with the aim of making sure social workers and others across the country are able to learn from the very best examples of frontline social work. The new centre will run from later in the year.

Supporting social workers, and giving them the tools they need, is a priority for this Government and a personal priority for me as Secretary of State. These reforms are about getting it right for social workers, so that social workers can get it right for our most vulnerable children and families.

Copies of my speech and the paper “Children’s social care reform—A vision for change” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.