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‘Deep concerns’ raised over plans for regulation reform

Nagalro warns that social workers’ human rights may be breached under the proposals

Published on 23rd February 2018

The government’s plans for reforming the regulation of social workers has been met with “deep concern” by Nagalro.

The Professional Association for Children's Guardians, Family Court Advisers and Independent Social Workers say plans to reform the regulation of social workers could potentially breach social workers’ human rights.

“Nagalro does not believe that these proposals comply with the requirements of the Human Rights Act, or indeed the principles of natural justice which have been part of English law for many hundreds of years,” said a statement from the Association.

Currently social workers in England, along with 15 other professions including occupational therapists and paramedics, are regulated by The Health and Care Professions Council.

However, Part 2 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 will transfer the regulation of the English social work profession to a new body, to be called Social Work England and the government has published draft regulations for setting this up.

Nagalro warns that although the consultation document claims that Social Work England will operate ‘at arm’s length from government’, sections 37 to 44 of the Act make it clear that the Secretary of State for Education will have the ability to control almost everything the regulator seeks to do.

The Association also stresses that social workers will be placed at risk of being suspended from practice by unaccountable administrators, before any formal malpractice charges have been laid against them and without the opportunity to put their case to an independent tribunal.

Currently, under the Health and Care Professions Council system, it is believed that the social worker should be suspended from practice, or restricted in the work which they can do, before formal disciplinary proceedings are commenced, an urgent hearing can be convened in front of a disciplinary tribunal who will listen to the regulator’s concerns and the social worker’s response, before coming to an independent decision about what should happen.

Under the proposed new regime, the decision would be taken by the administrator investigating the case. Although there is a right of appeal to the High Court, this is expensive and complex, Nagalro warns, and even if the appeal were successful, a social worker’s career may have already been destroyed before they have been formally charged with any wrong-doing, let alone convicted.

“Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is part of UK law, guarantees everyone a ‘fair and public hearing’ before ‘an independent and impartial tribunal’. Nagalro does not believe that these proposals comply with the requirements of the Human Rights Act, or indeed the principles of natural justice which have been part of English law for many hundreds of years,” the statement concluded.

 

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