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Professional Standards Authority Performance Review 2020 to 2021

The Professional Standards Authority has published its review of our performance against their Standards of Good Regulation for the period 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021.

Professional Standards Authority – Social Work England Performance Review 2020 to 2021

5/27/2022 9:00:00 AM

The Professional Standards Authority has published its annual performance review of Social Work England for the period 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021. The performance review assesses whether we are meeting the Professional Standards Authority’s Standards of Good Regulation that assess regulators' performance.

View the performance review on the Professional Standards Authority's website.

Our performance review for 2020 to 2021

Following the performance review for our first year of regulation (2019 to 2020) where we achieved 15 of the 18 standards, we are pleased to have made further progress in meeting 16 of the 18 standards in our second year.

The review reflects the good work our teams have done in further establishing our role and implementing change in what remains a challenging environment. We are pleased that the review highlights how we have engaged with feedback from the Professional Standards Authority and demonstrated a commitment to improvement. An example of this was when we engaged with feedback relating to accepted disposal outcomes.

The unique challenges we have faced in relation to the progression of fitness to practise cases was acknowledged in the review. It draws on our focus of clearing legacy cases and that good progress has been made - a result of us learning and improving during our first year of operations.

Specific to standard 11, which covers registration processes, we are pleased to have met this standard after not meeting it in the previous year. This reflects the hard work from across the organisation to improve the time taken to process registration applications, which has included increased resource for the team and improvements to our processes.

For education and training, the review points to our implementation of new education and training standards, highlighting our liaison with course providers in advance to ensure they could make any necessary changes. It also referenced our proactive work on education and training standards for approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) and best interests assessors (BIAs), commissioning research and consulting with experts to inform the standards prior to consultation.

The review emphasises our commitment to engagement with stakeholders and co-production. It highlights how we provide up to date and accurate guidance to social workers, that we use research to inform policy, and how we have consulted effectively including on changes to continuing professional development requirements that the Professional Standards Authority broadly supported. It was also pleasing to see that the Professional Standards Authority had received positive feedback from another UK regulator of social care about our responsiveness and proactivity.

Addressing areas where we did not meet the standards

There were two standards which the Professional Standards Authority concluded that we did not meet:

  • Standard 3: The regulator understands the diversity of its registrants and their patients and service users and of others who interact with the regulator and ensures that its processes do not impose inappropriate barriers or otherwise disadvantage people with protected characteristics.
  • Standard 17: The regulator identifies and prioritises all cases which suggest a serious risk to the safety of patients or service users and seeks interim orders where appropriate.

Both standards cover multiple aspects of our work, and while not meeting the standards the review does highlight progress made against both over the year.
In relation to standard 3, the review noted the publication of our equality, diversity and inclusion statement of intent in February 2021. This was followed by the development of our equality, diversity and inclusion action plan as a further positive step, but that the plan was published shortly after the end of the 2020 to 2021 review period.

The review points to our commitment to gather data and intelligence on equality, diversity and inclusion, including through voluntary diversity data collection, research activity and engagement. We acknowledge our data remains limited, and we continue to highlight the the importance of this data and seek to obtain it through wide-ranging communication efforts. This includes targeted emails to social workers, promoting through our website homepage and regular social media content.

As in the previous year, we met four of the five standards for fitness to practise. For standard 17, which looks at the need to risk assess and prioritise fitness to practise cases, the review acknowledged that we had made some progress, despite facing challenges. This includes referencing that our performance in assessing risk had improved over the course of the year.

In not meeting the standard, the review raised that we had taken longer to make interim order decisions, particularly on new cases, and longer than other regulators. In making an interim order decision, our process includes additional steps which other regulators do not have to undertake which adds to the length of time to make a final decision. We are actively seeking changes to our Rules and Regulations which would remove the additional steps in our interim order process and improve our performance in this area.

Our commitment to further improvement

Colum Conway, chief executive of Social Work England, said:

“We welcome the Professional Standards Authority’s review highlighting both positive feedback and areas for improvement. We’re continuing to work hard in addressing the challenges highlighted in the review.
“By continuing our conversations with the sector and learning from feedback, we will create an ambitious new corporate strategy that delivers further and meaningful improvement to our regulation. This will include further focus on equality, diversity and inclusion throughout as we seek to lead the way and influence change across the social work profession. We’re soon to be engaging on this strategy, providing opportunity for people to have a say in future social work regulation and influence our strategic direction.”
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