Monday, 23 April 2012

Registering the Professional Social Care Workers

If you found yourself in need of social care services, perhaps in need of someone to help you with your incontinence or perhaps someone to help you through your day and support you in making sense of the world when your mind has been attacked by dementia, wouldn’t you want to be assured that person is a professional, qualified and registered with an appropriate authoritative body.

In the same way as nurses are registered, doctors are registered, and even, in the last few years, social workers are registered.

Registration means that those practising are more accountable, not just to the body they are working for but also to a national professional organisation who set out the standards and code of conduct as well as taking action against those who fail to meet these standards, with the option of preventing the worst offenders from being able to practice again.

One of the advantages of professional registration is that it gives the individual personal responsibility for their work, conduct and professional development. Personal responsibility is an important motivator to continued professional development as well as being an important factor overall job satisfaction.

There has been a trend, in public services, over the last twenty or so years to move away from this professional accountability by creating another layer of workers below the established professionals, Community Support Officers have been introduced into policing, Teaching assistants in schools have been given greater responsibilities for supervising classes, healthcare assistants have been introduced into the NHS and care managers (or social work assistants) into social services.

One of the key elements of this new level of workers is that they do not need to be registered with professional bodies.

Whether you agree with this trend or not there is an important difference between these unregistered workers and the unregistered workers in social care and that is they sit below the established layer of registered professionals who, in the eyes of the public, take an element of personal responsibility for the particular service provided.

As social care braces itself for another example of abuse in care from Panorama we need to look at the registration of social care workers again.

The idea of registration has been floated about for a decade now with the implementation being off and on so many times I have lost count but we need to seriously take steps toward achieving it.

Of course, being a registered professional does not eliminate bad practice, there a plenty of examples from the General Medical Council or Nursing and Midwifery Council to demonstrate that, but it does give the general public a sense that when things go wrong there is a layer of justice in the system that does not only blame ‘the system’ but tackles the individual. This also helps the professionals in question, the system of personal responsibility allows those who do good work to distance themselves, professionally, from those who fail.
There are many thousands of social care workers in the country who will, it seems, be tarnished by the actions of a few rouge individuals. Professional regulation would, to a certain degree, mitigate this a little. It would help to demonstrate that these heinous individuals are the exception rather than the rule and that, when they are discovered, they will be unable to practice again.

The logistics of professional registration for social care workers are a minefield, which is why it has been constantly delayed, but with more and more people needing some form of social care services surely it is more important than ever. It is also important that social care workers can be recognised as professionals who are providing personal services for the most vulnerable in society.

Let’s start recognising the professional work of the many to counteract the hideous acts of the few