Social Work England missed standards on fitness to practice referrals, registration speed and diversity data in first year

Colum Conway, chief executive, Social Work England

Colum Conway, chief govt, Social Work England

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Social Work England fell wanting requirements on assessing the chance of health to practise referrals, processing registrations and recording the range of the workforce in its first yr, its personal watchdog has discovered.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) judged the regulator to have met 15 of its 18 “requirements of fine regulation” from December 2019 to November 2020 however stated it wanted to enhance in three areas.

Social Work England welcomed the report, revealed by the PSA final week, and vowed to fulfill all 18 requirements in future assessments.

Within the report revealed final week, the PSA praised Social Work England for its engagement with the sector since changing into regulator, saying different organisations had given it constructive suggestions on this.

‘Encouraging begin’

It stated it had “engaged constructively with suggestions and…proven dedication to enchancment”, and, within the context of the pandemic, had made “encouraging begin” to its function as regulator.

The PSA stated that Social Work England had met its health to practise (FtP) requirements in relation to elevating considerations, truthful investigations, acceptable decision-making processes and efficient participation.

It additionally acknowledged the extreme challenges the regulator confronted in its first yr as a result of influence of the pandemic on its skill to course of FtP circumstances, higher-than-expected referrals and the state of the 1,545 circumstances it inherited from the Well being and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Social Work England discovered simply 10% of circumstances that the HCPC recognized as able to schedule for a listening to to be full, regardless of the typical age of the legacy circumstances being nearly a yr.

Danger evaluation failings

Nonetheless, the PSA discovered Social Work England had not met the usual to determine and prioritise all health to practise circumstances that instructed “a severe danger to the security of service customers” and search interim orders the place acceptable.

Firstly, it discovered that Social Work England was not making selections about interim orders promptly sufficient in legacy circumstances. The time it took Social Work England to make these selections elevated through the yr, from 51.7 weeks on common (together with their time with the HCPC) to 80.1 weeks. It additionally raised considerations about case examiners – who evaluate a case following an investigation – making selections about interim orders, and stated that in a small variety of circumstances examiners had made referrals for interim orders on the premise of data out there earlier within the course of.

The second problem raised by the PSA underneath this customary was that Social Work England didn’t do full danger assessments on the triage stage for a lot of the evaluate interval, so it didn’t reveal that it might determine and prioritise larger danger circumstances. It stated this had improved since August 2020 when, following a evaluate, it began requiring workers to do full danger assessments at this stage.

The PSA additionally discovered that Social Work England failed, on quite a few events, to comply with its personal coverage on recording danger assessments by not doing so when new data emerged.

Nonetheless, the PSA stated it didn’t see any circumstances the place the regulator didn’t act appropriately on data growing the chance stage on a case.

“We are going to monitor Social Work England’s work to be taught from interim order referrals, such because the institution of its investigation evaluate group shortly after the top of our evaluate interval, and any additional modifications it makes because of this,” stated the PSA’s report.

“Nonetheless, primarily based on the vary of considerations we recognized and the significance of efficient danger evaluation, we decided that this customary isn’t met this yr.”

Social Work England stated that, for the reason that evaluate interval, it had launched refresher coaching for investigators on danger assessments and interim orders.

It stated it now did full danger assessments earlier within the triage course of, and had performed additional danger assessments for all excellent legacy investigations “to make sure that these are correct and acceptable”.

Slower than different regulators

The PSA stated it was not assured that Social Work England was dealing effectively with registration purposes within the interval underneath evaluate.

It stated it took account of the “difficult context” of the Covid-19 pandemic in its choice, however it discovered that its processing was slower than that of the opposite regulators the PSA oversees from April 2020 to March 2021.

“We recognize that there are variations between regulators’ processes and necessities, and we have to take care in evaluating their knowledge,” the report stated. “However, the distinction between Social Work England and most different regulators in efficiency towards these measures was putting.”

From April 2020 to December 2020, it processed 77% of UK registration purposes requiring no additional investigation inside 10 days, towards a goal of 95%.

Although efficiency improved through the yr, the PSA stated it will count on all these software to be essentially the most easy for a regulator to cope with.

Social Work England stated it was “assured that is not a difficulty” and was now assembly its targets for processing purposes.

The regulator stated it had improved data sharing with different organisations together with schooling and coaching suppliers, elevated pupil consciousness of the registration course of and improved its reporting mechanisms.

‘Not sufficient variety knowledge collected’

The PSA additionally discovered that Social Work England didn’t gather sufficient details about the range of social staff on its register, making it tough for it to evaluate whether or not any of its processes could also be affecting registrants in another way primarily based on their protected traits.

It recognised that the HCPC didn’t move on to Social Work England any data concerning registrants’ demographic traits and stated it will take time for the regulator to assemble this knowledge.

However, the PSA stated Social Work England had “made solely restricted progress throughout its first yr in gathering this necessary data”.

The PSA welcomed the regulator’s equality, variety and inclusion (EDI) technique, led by EDI lead Ahmina Akhtar, however this was not finalised and revealed till after the evaluate interval.

“Social Work England has been clear that it understands how necessary this work is and its relevance to social care,” stated the PSA’s report.

“Now we have no purpose to doubt its dedication. However given how little data it had in regards to the variety of its registrants, and the early stage it had reached in its technique work, we couldn’t be assured about its efficiency throughout our evaluate interval.”

Social Work England acknowledged that it had made restricted progress in its first yr on this space and stated it was dedicated to assembly the usual in future opinions.

It now collects equality, variety and inclusion knowledge from social staff as a part of the registration course of.

Dedication to fulfill requirements

Colum Conway, chief govt of Social Work England, stated: “Changing into the regulator for social work was our first necessary step through the interval of this efficiency evaluate.

“We’re dedicated to proceed working to fulfill all of the PSA’s requirements of fine regulation and welcome each the PSA’s annual evaluation and ongoing engagement.”

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