See our response here - The College of Social Work

The College of Social Work Response to the consultation on
the Knowledge and Skills Statement for social work with adults
The College of Social Work (TCSW) is the centre of excellence for social work, upholding
and strengthening professional standards to the benefit of the public. It holds the
professional standards for social work, supports the professional development of social
workers, and campaigns on issues relating to social work policy and practice. An
independent membership organisation, The College provides quality assurance for initial
and post-qualifying education through its training and education endorsement scheme.
Like colleges for other professions, our role is to:
Hold the standards for the profession and support and enable our members to
meet those standards
Be the voice of the profession to policy makers and the media, ensuring that our
members speak up for the profession
Be led by and accountable to our members – the profession. We do this in order
to improve the outcomes for the people served by our profession.
Michael Simpson, Strategy and Policy Adviser
Telephone: 020 8453 2923 Email: [email protected]
1. Introduction
TCSW is fully committed to supporting reforms which will enhance practice standards,
promote greater consistency in quality and outcomes, and which create the conditions for
a strong, proud and capable profession. The draft Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS)
for social work with adults is an important document in ensuring effective and strong social
work practice. The links at the beginning of the document which align the KSS with the
Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) and the Roles and Functions papers produced
by the College of Social Work (TCSW) are therefore welcomed, and help support a
system-wide approach to improvement and change.
This is especially true in the context of recent system reforms. The Care Act was passed
into law in May 2014. At its heart are the principles of wellbeing and prevention, and the
recognition that an individual, their family, and/or carer must be enabled to make decisions
regarding their care. The Knowledge and Skills Statement therefore arrives during a period
of significant change. As such, it has the potential to act as the pivot for newly qualified
social workers (NQSWs) to meet the demands set out under this new legislative
Health and social care integration is also likely to become a significant feature of service
reform over the next few years with the main political parties and the NHS all committing to
the principle. TCSW, in conjunction the Royal College of GPs, recently produced a report
considering the joint implications for social workers and GPs. The organisational settings
in which social work is practiced are likely to shift in the future. Resilience and professional
leadership will grow in significance. The KSS should be accommodating of these potential
shifts and seek to ground NQSWs with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in
a multi-disciplinary environment.
TCSW has consulted widely with its membership in preparation of this response, including
with members of the TCSW’s Adults and Mental Health Faculties, the Professional
Assembly and our PCF Review Group. TCSW welcomes the opportunity to comment on
the KSS, recognising that this is an important document which will support and enable
further reforms in social work education and practice.
2. General points
The areas outlined in the KSS would benefit from further reflecting the PCF domains. We
note that some though not all the headings correspond to the PCF. We believe that the
document would benefit from consistently reflecting the nine domains. The domains of the
PCF should be the core reference points which provide social workers with the basis for
deeper learning and skills. It is important to maintain this as a clear, contextual offer to
social workers.
Overall the document uses a number of different expressions to convey knowledge and
skills. We believe there is room for further clarity and consistency in some of the language.
We detail examples of these below.
2.1 The Role of Social of Social Workers working with Adults
The KSS should be an opportunity to encourage social workers and employers to reflect
on, and have clear expectations about the core roles and purpose of social work. This is
important and will enable the skills and knowledge of social workers to be well utilised.
As such, this section would benefit from two, clear and contextualising statements, as
i) A statement of the values and principles that social work with adults (and all
people) is based on. This should be drawn from the Care Act principles, the
Mental Capacity Act principles and the Professional Capabilities domains (rights,
justice, economic wellbeing, empowerment, anti-oppressive practice, starting with
the person, involvement, not making assumptions, prevention, protection, balancing
competing outcomes, minimum restrictions on human rights).
ii) A statement of what social workers as a unique profession can offer
alongside their values. This should be drawn from the TCSW publication ‘Roles
and Functions for Social Work’ and the Care Act guidance (details of which are:
distinctive knowledge and skills, collaborative and coordinating profession, working
with marginalised people, engaging with people with limited or no capacity,
balancing competing rights).
This section should also reiterate the fact that social workers should be capable of working
in any setting or role, and be clear that the KSS applies to all situations in which social
workers are working with adults.
The David Croisdale-Appleby review of education refers more widely to the different areas
of practice in social work. As such, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that a
considerable number of newly qualified social workers may work in the voluntary and
independent sector. In order to ensure consistency and allow for AYSE candidates to get
an appropriate breadth of opportunity it might be worth considering how local authorities in
conjunction with other employers can support social workers in non-statutory settings.
2.2 Person centred practice
The first sentence of this section undermines a person centred approach and is not
consistent with the language and scope of person centred practice set out in the Care Act
2014. It suggests that social workers are the gatekeepers in this relationship. The
language should be brought into line with the expectations set in the Care Act.
2.3 Safeguarding and assessing capacity
TCSW believes that safeguarding and assessing capacity are fundamentally different
aspects of social work. As currently drafted, one aspect is implicitly subordinate to the
other. This section should therefore be disambiguated to ensure the distinction is clear.
2.4 Direct Work with individuals and Families
Some of the inconsistencies in the language of the KSS in its current form are more
problematic in this section. ‘Individuals’ is used, and ‘people who use services’ and simply
‘people’ are used elsewhere. The KSS would benefit from settling on a single term, to
ensure clarity (we would suggest ‘people’). More specifically, this section lists a number of
different service user groups. We believe that it would be better to state ‘people who have
difficulty engaging with the processes’ in order to fully capture the variety of people social
workers will come into contact with.
The following capabilities are outlined in TCSW’s ‘Roles and Functions of Social Workers
in England’ publication, and also receive attention in the Care Act. It is our view that they
should be reflected more fully in the KSS. The page numbers below, reflect those in the
TCSW document:
Page 12
3.3 For example, in adults’ services social workers may have a community development
role, identifying and maximising the strengths of individuals, their families and their
communities. In children’s services, social workers may work with care leavers or disabled
young people to help them live independently and improve their life chances.
Page 13
1. To seek to promote social justice and rights by challenging neglect, discrimination
and exclusion, and helping to build safe, strong and caring social networks and
Page 14
4. To take a lead on community development to assess, identify and maximise the
strengths or assets of individuals, their families and their communities. For example,
repairing, constructing and reinforcing networks of support for individuals in their
own communities who would otherwise require admission to institutional care.
Page 16
2. To build relationships with individuals and families who find it difficult to engage with
services but need support to develop or maintain independence or autonomy. For
example, families with children at the edge of care or older people with social care
needs who wish to remain at home.
2.5 Supervision, Critical Reflection and Analysis
This section would benefit from an addition about self-awareness, awareness of a social
worker’s own emotions and how these can impact on practice, and the importance of a
social worker’s use of self and authority (professional, personal and statutory) when
working with users, carers and other professionals.
2.6 Organisational Context AND Professional Ethics and Leadership
More emphasis should be given to social worker’s leadership roles, working to create
change across local systems (including with other professionals and agencies) and, very
importantly, in their responsibilities to identify and challenge poor practice constructively.
We also believe this section should include reference to whistleblowing.
2.7 Level of Capability: Social Workers working in an Adult Settings at the end of
their first year in employment
We would argue that where possible the levels of capability should be outcome focussed.
This emphasis would make it easier to support social workers undertaking the ASYE to
achieve the expectations of the KSS and be assessed against them. This is particularly
pertinent given the fact that the key capability is whether the social worker has helped the
person to achieve better outcomes for themselves, and if not, to understand why and
whether anything might have been done differently.
As such, the KSS should state:
By the end of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment social workers working in
an adult setting should have consistently:
Ensured that adults understand their role and purpose as social workers.
Appropriately accessed expertise from others.
Identified outcomes that promote adults’ wellbeing and worked towards these.
Built relationships with adults in order that they can work towards outcomes.
3. The National Framework for the Assessment of Social Workers at the end of
their Assessed and Supported Year in Placement
We welcome the proposal for a national quality assurance system for ASYE. The College
has previously expressed concern that we are tasked with issuing certificates to social
workers who successfully complete their ASYE, without being able to assure the quality of
the employer assessment and support. The proposed scheme will provide the assurance
that those being confirmed in their membership of the profession at the end of their first
year in practice, have met the required professional standards. It is important that the
whole profession has confidence in the scheme. TCSW looks forward to developing the
4. Relationship to Children and Families KSS
TCSW is fully committed to supporting reforms which will enhance practice standards,
promote greater consistency in quality and outcomes and which support a strong, proud
and confident profession. We argued in our response to the Children’s KSS that it must be
congruent with the Adults KSS. We reinforce that assertion here.
The need for consistency is becoming even more crucial as an increasing number of local
authorities are employing children and families and adult social workers within the same
department or directorate. Organisational and professional confusion is likely to result if
there is little coherence between and across the two KSSs.
Equally important is the need to make sure that the KSS for adults (and for children and
families) is connected to the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) so that the
profession, employers and other stakeholders have one coherent framework setting out
expectations and standards. The potential for fragmentation and silos is very real if these
connections are not made.
We would also reiterate the point that we made in relation to the KSS for children and
families; that many of the skills and knowledge referred to in the document will only be fully
realised through continuing professional development, rather than at the starting point of a
career. We are therefore very pleased to be working with the Department of Health with
regards to developing a suitably robust CPD framework.