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Social Care

Volume 714: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2009


My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State issued a Written Ministerial Statement on 20 July (Official Report, col. 96WS) about the discovery of a backlog of conduct cases which had been identified by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). He announced that we would be asking the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to undertake a review of the GSCC’s conduct functions. CHRE today published the report of its review of the GSCC. The Government welcome this report.

CHRE’s report sets out a series of serious operational failings in the conduct function by the GSCC, which investigates complaints about social workers. Insufficient attention was paid to a growing backlog of conduct cases, despite additional funding being provided by the department for three years to enable GSCC to address a growing number of complaints. Of particular concern was the decision to suspend, for a period of time, any new referrals to the GSCC’s Professional Conduct Committee.

The Government have today broadly accepted all of the recommendations made by CHRE and a full response to its report is available at Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_107882.

I met the GSCC’s chair, Rosie Varley, on behalf of both the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families to express Ministers’ concerns about the issues raised in the report and to set out clear expectations for the GSCC going forward.

Significant progress has already been made in handling cases on receipt of complaints and addressing any ongoing risks to the public resulting from the poor management of conduct since July. Ministers have been assured by the chair of the GSCC that all cases are now routinely risk-assessed and allocated to a responsible manager who ensures that risk is continually reviewed as new information arises. Interim suspension orders, which suspend the registration of social workers against whom serious complaints have been made while they are investigated, are now being applied for where appropriate.

The GSCC has also begun the process of reforming its operational processes and strengthening its infrastructure to support performance management of its conduct function. A remedial plan to address the backlog of cases is now in place and Ministers have asked for monthly reports on progress to be provided to the department.

Ministers have made it clear to the chair of the GSCC that they expect to see significant operational improvements as a result of the implementation of the council’s action plan by the end of March 2010, including the resolution of the oldest cases. The chair of the GSCC has been asked personally to oversee reform of the GSCC’s procedures, to ensure effective governance and to report on progress to Ministers in March 2010.

The Department of Health will continue to work closely with the GSCC to assure and assist in the delivery of its recovery plans.

The CHRE’s report and the Government’s response have been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members from the Vote Office.