Social work is an emerging discipline and a development path has been published for consultation. There are some 50,000 social workers employed mainly by local authorities and voluntary bodies, within a total of one million engaged in some form of personal social services. The Quality Strategy for Social Care is a blue print for development of a professional model for social work, but all employers do not support the proposals. There is a view that social workers are responsible for care management and the delivery of services and that they operate under pre determined procedures with little requirement to exercise judgement. This view partly explains why investment in training social workers is below the average for UK industry.The Strategy for Social Care includes plans for a new Social Care Institute for Excellence which will have real authority and which will set out clear guidelines on effective social care practice. It will also produce best practice guidelines to create a Lifelong Learning social care workforce culture. Views will be sought on how the Institute can be used to pioneer change and accelerate the drive for quality.
There will also be a new quality framework for social services departments. This framework will ensure that continuous quality improvements are made, with an emphasis on local leadership, accountability and the importance of staff development.
Consultation will also take place on the reform of social work training, including the level and length of training; a formal re-registration scheme for professional staff, regulated by the General Social Care Council, and the future use of Government funding for social care training.