Collaborating to define and improve social work standards

Not a day goes by when I don’t still think about the family of six brothers and sisters in care who were my first case as a young social worker in Ireland many years ago now. I was their 13th social worker, they lived separately in a variety of foster and residential placements, and they taught me so much about what it meant to be a social worker, the impact it has when we get it wrong, and the difference it makes when we get it right.

Their journeys have stayed with me through every job I have had since and make me determined to ensure that people with lived experience are at the heart of every social worker’s practice, and the forefront of the work carried out by every team and service. This is not always easy. Social work is an ever-changing profession, and there is never a shortage of demands or issues to deal with.

Last night, we spent time with Sheffield’s Children in Care Council, who were kind enough to invite us to one of their meetings. While it was great to see their dynamism and innovation, it wasn’t great to hear that some of the same issues around social work haven’t changed much over the years.

That’s why I’m so excited at the prospect of working with a specialist social work regulator, solely dedicated to getting it right for the people we work with and doing so collaborating with 95,000 colleagues across the country, in every setting and organisation.

We are a brand-new organisation, building brick by brick from the ground up. We won’t always get it right, but we are committed to doing so, and to living our values and holding ourselves to the same high standards that we will hold our colleagues across the country to once we start to regulate. We will do this through our standards which cover a range of areas – registration, fitness to practise, professional standards, and education and training. We will be reaching out very soon to further our conversation with you, our colleagues and partners across the country, including people with lived experience of social work, to develop these standards through a range of engagement opportunities.

You might have seen our recent adverts for seven regional engagement leads this week. They form the cornerstone of our commitment to engagement and collaboration, ensuring we stay close to colleagues across the country to inform our work and learn from reality. We are excited about these posts. They are the first of their kind for a UK regulator, and we know that you will see the positive difference they’ll make to ensure we are an informed, authentic, collaborative regulator, and firmly rooted in the principles and values that form the foundation of social work practice.

This is a real moment in time for the social work profession. We have our own regulator and together we are setting the standards for our profession going forward.  I have no doubt that others will be looking to us as social workers to learn and emulate how we do it, because the difference we make to people’s lives when we get it right is unparalleled.

So, let’s start a conversation about what effective social work practice looks like. As Executive Director of Standards, I really want to hear about work you’re really proud of, or, if you’re someone who’s experienced social work, what has worked for you that you’d like others to experience as well? Together we’ll build a picture of the many good news stories about our profession and continue to evolve our learning and impact.

If you have any questions about us as the new regulator or for me as Executive Director of Standards, I will be live on the Social Work England Twitter page on Wednesday 6 February at 1pm until 1:30pm. Please do submit any questions on Twitter using #SocialWorkEngland before and during the event – I look forward to chatting then!

You can join the wider conversation by:

Using #SocialWorkEngland on Twitter
Don’t forget to look out for our standards consultation activity coming to a place near you soon!

Sarah Blackmore

Sarah Blackmore

Sarah is the Executive Director of Standards and qualified as a social worker from Trinity College Dublin in 1997. Since then, she has worked in a variety of national and international contexts, from frontline practice in Dublin, to working with street children and ex-child soldiers in Sierra Leone during the civil war, to managing services for children and families in the UK. Sarah has worked across statutory, voluntary and regulatory services. She has spent the last six years in Scotland, where she was Deputy Director of Inspection with the Scottish social care regulator, and Executive Director of Delivery and Development for a large mental health charity.