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FRONT LINE FIRST - SOCIAL SERVICES

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The General Social Care Council is long awaited. It has been talked about for over 25 years. Back in my days at the...
The General Social Care Council is long awaited. It has been talked about for over 25 years. Back in my days at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities we campaigned for its creation. On

1 October 2001 it came into being - the first ever regulatory body for the social care profession in England. Separate councils regulate the profession in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Set up under the Care Standards Act 2000, the GSCC will be the guardian of standards for the social care workforce. It aims to increase the protection of service users, their carers and the general public.

The GSCC will issue statutory codes of conduct and practice, set up a register of social care workers, deal with matters of conduct and regulate social work education and training.

Service users are at the GSCC's heart. It has a majority of lay members on its council. A non-departmental public body, it will work closely with its sponsoring body, the Department of Health.

The GSCC will help recruit and retain a skilled and well-qualified workforce. It will do this by improving the status of the profession through:

-- Increasing public confidence with higher standards

-- Championing good practice and challenging bad practice

-- Moving social care up the political agenda

-- Improving the public image of the profession and countering bad publicity.

Social care professionals have a unique responsibility. They work with some of society's most vulnerable members. The codes of conduct and practice will ensure workers and employers understand clearly what is expected of them. Users and the public will be able to challenge poor practice.

It is likely that social workers who wish to be registered will have to sign up to the codes of conduct. The aim of the register is twofold - it will help to prevent unsuitable people being employed or retained in the profession, and it will also promote continuous professional development and training. Acceptance may be linked with a commitment to further training. The GSCC's ultimate sanction will be to strike someone off the register. That person would then be unable to work in social care.

The GSCC carries forward work previously done by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in education and training. This ensures consistency and quality in courses offering the diploma in social work (DipSW) and post-qualifying training. The GSCC is a key stakeholder in developing a degree to replace the DipSW.

Social workers feel pretty battered at the moment. Their failures attract much bad publicity. Their successes are unsung. And they have many more successes than failures.

With the creation of the GSCC, the social care workforce will become a regulated profession. In itself that should raise morale. The GSCC will champion users. It will also champion the overwhelming majority of social care workers who do their jobs devotedly

and professionally.

Rodney Brooke

Chair, General Social Care Council

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