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Social Work England announces new chief executive

Government reveals new chief executive for proposed new regulator Social Work England

Published on 5th June 2018

The government has announced the new chief executive of Social Work England which will become the regulator of the social work profession.

Colum Conway, who is currently Chief Executive of the regulatory body for the social work profession and social care workforce in Northern Ireland, has been appointed to lead Social Work England.

“Alongside his experience of running a regulator, he has a background in social work and has many years’ experience working in senior leadership roles. We are confident that he will bring a wealth of relevant experience to this role and we look forward to working with him, and Social Work England’s Chair Lord Patel of Bradford, to make Social Work England a success,” said children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Social workers in England are currently regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council but the Children and Social Work Bill outlined plans for a new regulator.

Zahawi and Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care this week published the government response to the public consultation on the policy to establish the regulatory framework for Social Work England.

In a written statement to Parliament, Zahawi said the consultation, which ran from 8 February to 21 March sought views from everyone with an interest in social work and professional regulation. The government received 198 responses to the consultation from a wide variety of interested stakeholders, including representatives from social worker networks, local authorities, unions, charities, education providers, service user groups, regulatory bodies and individual social workers.

“Overall, respondents supported the majority of proposals,” said Zahawi. “We have taken clear and practical steps to respond to what experts, professionals and the sector told us to further strengthen and refine the proposed secondary legislative framework for Social Work England.”

He added that a number of respondents also requested further clarity on the role of government in relation to Social Work England; expressed strong support for collaboration between Social Work England and the sector; and, highlighted the importance of minimising disruption to the profession during the transfer of regulatory functions.

According to Zahawi, many respondents to the consultation recognised the potential benefits a specialist, single profession regulator will bring to social workers and for the social work profession. The HCPC currently regulates 16 different professions including occupational therapists and paramedics.

Respondents also provided wider comments on the way in which Social Work England will operate as the regulator on a day-to-day basis, and how it might consider effective and efficient ways to discharge its functions.

“While these responses fall outside of the scope of the consultation on the secondary legislative framework, we do expect Social Work England to work closely with the sector through its consultations on standards and regulatory rules, and as it establishes itself as the new regulator for social workers in England. We hope that respondents will welcome the opportunity to contribute further to such consultation,” added Zahawi.

BASW England welcomed the appointment of Colum Conway as chief executive of Social Work England (SWE) and urged him to work closely with the professional association – and the wider social work sector – to uphold social work values and ensure the Professional Capabilities Framework is integrated into all social work standards.

“We called for SWE leadership to have social work background, so it is encouraging that he and the new chair, Lord Patel, are both former social workers and should bring a human-rights approach to the new regulator, as well as a keen understanding of the challenges social workers face,” says Maris Stratulis, BASW England manager.

“In addition, BASW England has consistently advocated for a strong social work presence on the SWE board based on skills, expertise and knowledge. We look forward to hearing the makeup of the board,” she added.

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