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Social Work England Performance Review 2019 to 2020

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has published its review of our performance against their Standards of Good Regulation for the period 2 December 2019 to 30 November 2020.

Professional Standards Authority – Social Work England Performance Review 2019 to 2020

9/30/2021 9:00:00 AM

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has today published its annual performance review of Social Work England for the period 2 December 2019, when Social Work England started regulating social workers in England, to 30 November 2020.

You can view the performance report on the PSA website.

What does the performance review assess?

The PSA oversees the regulation and registration of healthcare professionals. As part of this oversight, each year the PSA reviews 10 health and social care regulators, including Social Work England, to assess whether they are meeting its Standards of Good Regulation.

The Standards of Good Regulation cover the core functions of regulation and are designed to ensure that regulators are protecting the public, promoting professional standards and promoting confidence in health and care professionals.

Our performance review for 2019 to 2020

In the context of an especially challenging year for everyone in social work and as a new regulator, we are pleased to have met 15 of the 18 standards in our first year.

Across these standards, the report reflects the good work our teams have done to ensure we effectively established ourselves as the new regulator of social work, as well as our commitment to continuously improve.

The report highlighted several occasions where the PSA shared feedback with us throughout the year and we welcome that the report notes this engagement has been positive. Part of this engagement included a report on how we used new powers to close fitness to practise cases, where we carefully considered the PSA’s points and took steps to address them.

The report also emphasised our engagement with a range of stakeholders in developing standards, and how the PSA have received positive feedback from other organisations about how we have worked with them.

Our responsiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic was also positively highlighted. This included our establishment of temporary registration, under the Coronavirus Act, working with other organisations to launch the Social Work Together campaign to support workforce needs during the crisis, and collaborating on guidance for social workers about specific risks and changes to practice because of the pandemic.

For education and training, the report draws attention to our effective processes to approve and assure the quality of training courses and how we adapted our processes to cope with the pandemic. It also highlights the introduction of our education standards being appropriate in the context of the pandemic.

Additionally, the report emphasises the integrity of our register, the overall good quality of decision making in fitness to practise, and the support and guidance provided to help social workers understand our continuing professional development (CPD) requirements.

Addressing areas where we did not meet the standards

There were three standards which the PSA concluded that we did not meet for the period of 2 December 2019 to 30 November 2020.

We acknowledge the PSA feedback as to why we did not meet these standards in our first year. We are confident that we have made significant improvements in all these areas, both during the report period and since 1 December 2020. We continue to work hard to improve further.

Each of the standards are broad and cover a range of aspects of our work. In relation to Standard 3, this looks at how we as a regulator both understand the diversity of the social workers on our register, as well as that of people with lived experience and others who interact with us. We acknowledge limited progress in our first year, though the report acknowledges that we were collecting this data for the first time and that the PSA have since seen progress in this area.

We are committed to meeting this standard and have undertaken a significant amount of work to ensure that we operate in a way that reflects our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion as part of our core business. This includes the reconfiguration of our equality, diversity and inclusion steering group, the publication of our equality, diversity and inclusion statement of intent in February 2021 and appointing a head of equality, diversity and inclusion. We have also launched activity to collect equality, diversity and inclusion data from social workers as part of the registration journey, and collaborated with the Principal Social Worker networks and the What Works Centre to address data deficit and shape reform on racism in social work.

In relation to Standard 11, which covers registration processes, the report considered the time taken to process registration applications was too long, though it also noted the improvements made during the year. We have worked hard to improve the time it takes to process registrations and are confident this is no longer an issue. Some of the work we have undertaken includes improving information sharing with other organisations including education and training providers, increasing student awareness of the registration process and improvements to our reporting mechanisms.

While we met four of the five standards for fitness to practise, in relation to Standard 17, which looks at the need to risk assess and prioritise fitness to practise cases, the report commented on risk assessments and the length of time taken to make decisions about interim orders in legacy cases received from the previous regulator. As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, some of the steps we have taken include refresher training to investigators on risk assessments and interim orders, introducing full risk assessments earlier in the triage process, and for all outstanding legacy investigations, conducting further risk assessments to ensure that these are accurate and appropriate.

Our commitment to meeting the standards and continuous improvement

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

“Becoming the regulator for social work was our first important step during the period of this performance review. We are committed to continue working to meet all the Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) Standards of Good Regulation and welcome both the PSA’s annual assessment and ongoing engagement.”
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