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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, will my noble friend give way on that point? Is there really any point in asking CCETSW to carry out this survey? Surely we need some objective outside body to give confidence to the result?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I believe that we should await the results of the report that CCETSW produces. I understand the point that my noble friend is making, but I believe that he will also acknowledge that CCETSW has a new chairman, that it has changed, and that it is now a different organisation.

Specialist social workers are certainly needed for specific but complex and sometimes intractable problems. That requires expertise born of knowledge and practical experience. But clients who need social workers need them to work with them in partnership on all their needs. I could not but be impressed, like other Members of your Lordships' House, by the eloquent and persuasive case made by my noble friend Lord Jenkin on the needs of those who are visually impaired. Indeed, I visited the centre in Brighton the other day and was enormously impressed by the work which is going on. I understand the points he made particularly on the somewhat narrow use of the training support programme. That is something I wish to discuss with my colleagues.

Since 1991 the Government have developed and resourced a training strategy which has four objectives. These are, first, to improve the quality of basic qualifying courses; secondly, to increase the number of people qualified; thirdly, to increase the training opportunities for existing staff; and, fourthly, to increase post-qualifying and management development training.

We undertook a five-year programme for introducing the Diploma in Social Work as the unified professional qualification. Over a rather shorter period, the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work has been working to establish a vigorous post-qualifying framework. This will ensure that we have expert practitioners in both the field and leadership positions.

However, we have had some concerns about the content of the diploma. The legislative context for contemporary social work has changed with the introduction of new policies mentioned by my noble friend Lady Faithfull, notably the Children Act and the National Health Service and Community Care Act. It is essential that social workers have a thorough knowledge of the new arrangements. We therefore insisted that the central council reviewed the diploma to secure its continued relevance today and to ensure that it keeps pace with developments in best practice. The changes to the diploma mean that all students are taught the relevant law for their own area of practice and are assessed on their competence. In this way employers will be able to have confidence in the newly qualified staff they employ.

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Regardless of the area of social work in which students practise, they will all need to be knowledgeable about the laws under which social workers operate. They will need to be able to demonstrate in their practice placement that they not only know the law but how it works in reality. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, is so right when he says that no professional can hope to continue in effective practice without keeping up to date. We agree that it is essential that all professionals undertake continual professional development. I stress to my noble friends Lady Elles, Lord Campbell of Alloway and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that our model of social work training is to have a two-year basic course followed by post-qualifying education and training especially when questions of life or liberty are in question. Although I accept that that does not go all the way, I believe that it goes some way to meeting their aspirations.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, after gaining a qualification, another qualification is taken? I do not follow what the noble Baroness has told us.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, it is a two-year basic course followed then by modules which are specialist courses. For instance, if one is doing mental health work then one needs the extra qualification to become an approved social worker in this area. It is the same model which has been introduced very successfully for nursing under the Project 2000 scheme.

It is important that employers invest in the post-qualifying development of their staff. The central council agreed in 1992 to two levels of post-qualifying awards which are modular-based, and that is what I was saying. They can be acquired over a number of years. These awards will become available in the next year or so and should deliver expert and competent practitioners, but they are not in place yet. The scheme is just coming on-stream.

We have had concerns about the speed with which the post-qualifying framework has been implemented. We have therefore asked the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work to look at the framework, as a matter of some concern, to see how access to the awards can be speeded up.

Formal learning is one source for developing social work practice and it is important, but another essential part is supervision in the workplace. This supervision is not just about the management of work, but about what goes on in social work practice. It is a crucial element in developing both the person and the practice. In the days when my noble friend Lady Faithfull was a director, I feel sure that staff supervision was "normal" and was a key reason why her department was so outstanding. In recent years, however, that practice seems to have lapsed. We have therefore asked the National Institute for Social Work to start a programme of work around the theme of managing and developing practice expertise.

Both my noble friend Lady Faithfull and the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, spoke in favour of a general social services council to regulate social work. We are giving detailed consideration to the proposal. To help us

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in this, we have commissioned two studies to look into possible standards for all those working in personal social services. The reports are due very shortly and we shall consult fully on any potential standards that emerge.

The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, raised the issue of student loans. I am afraid that I do not know the answer because the Department for Education is responsible. However, I shall write to the noble Lady. She can rest assured that the UK system of a two-year basic professional qualification for social work, supplemented by post-qualifying education and training, does not put our social workers at a disadvantage compared with those in some parts of Europe where there are three-year courses.

As social work is not a regulated profession in the UK, it falls outside the scope of the EU directive. Also as an unregulated profession, the recognition of diplomas is not necessary for social workers seeking to practise in another member state. All that is required is information on the qualifications obtained by social workers wishing to take up employment in another member state. However, my noble friend Lady Elles is right that despite mutual recognition of qualifications, a member state would require a separate assessment of the knowledge of its law and language to establish whether a social worker from another member state was competent to practise. I shall certainly take my noble friend's advice and study the training schemes in other countries because however good we are—and we are good—I do not believe that we have a monopoly on wisdom and understanding.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred to the Probation Service. As we had a very full debate on that in your Lordships' House on 5th April, I shall not go into those issues tonight.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull has pressed hard for a three-year degree course for social workers. As she will know, similar proposals were put to the Government in 1987. These were rejected by the then Minister for Health.

There are still some good reasons for not changing the present system which is still new in its entirety. I shall cite four of those reasons. First, post-qualifying training and development allows employers to determine what specialist training staff require in the sure knowledge that there is a solid foundation within the Diploma in Social Work. This allows greater flexibility to employers and builds upon local needs.

Secondly, social workers comprise between 10 to 15 per cent. of the statutory social services workforce. The remainder are care workers of one type or another: home helps, residential and day care staff, and so on. The Government have a responsibility to consider the needs of all the staff in social services and to consider not only social workers but the training needs of all those involved in the care of vulnerable people.

Thirdly, to go down a compulsory three-year college-based route for social work qualifying training would seem to go against the trend towards work-based learning. The policy of a two-year diploma followed by post-qualifying training means that the expertise gained after initial qualification is a mixture of both practical

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experience and knowledge. This is what we need in social work: a thorough integration of experience gained from the workplace and the knowledge gained from academic work.

Finally, there is the question of cost. In 1987 the central council estimated that the cost would be in the order of £40 million—a substantial sum of money then and considerably more at today's prices.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, and my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway were right to raise the subject of resources. It is a question of priorities. Since 1987, we have introduced the training support programme—a specific grant—which now stands at almost £35 million covering the whole social services workforce and which supports almost £50 million of expenditure by local authorities on training and development. In addition, we have made £10 million available through the central council. This means that Government are spending well in excess of the £40 million that might have been spent on creating a three-year training course for social workers. This funding benefits all the social services staff—not just the 10 to 15 per cent. of social workers.

We believe that a two-year basic qualifying course is the right approach providing that it is supplemented by post-qualifying development. The department has invested heavily in the post-qualifying framework and is expecting the central council to implement it speedily.

I cannot leave this debate without saying a few words about the majority of staff in social services; namely, the large numbers of domiciliary care and residential care staff who deliver services to users day after day. Research has suggested that domiciliary care staff are in touch with almost 10 per cent. of people of pensionable age and that most elderly people who are housebound are in touch with the home help service.

The noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, spoke with great insight about children in residential care. I know that he supports the 1991 Utting Report which found that not only is the task of residential care staff more challenging than ever before, but also that a substantial proportion of heads of residential homes for children were not professionally qualified.

That issue was raised also by my noble friend Lady Cox in her eloquent and hard-hitting contribution. My noble friend's views and those of the noble Lord were endorsed by Sir William Utting who recommended that all heads of children's homes should be professionally qualified and that up to one-third of care staff should also have a professional qualification.

I am sure that your Lordships will be pleased to know that the Government have accepted both recommendations and introduced the residential child care initiative as part of the training support programme. That has made available sufficient places on courses for all the unqualified heads of children's homes, but it leaves to the discretion of employers the proportion of care staff who need to be professionally qualified. The training support programme provides funding for secondments to diploma courses for those staff. The noble Lord is right that the people in charge of such homes are very special people who need special training to carry out their important work.

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Your Lordships will know that the Government have been seeking to improve the skills of the whole workforce through the development of national vocational qualifications. In social care, there are now over 20 awards covering not only staff who work with children under eight but also staff who work with adults. New awards will soon be available for those staff who work with children over eight, including residential child care staff.

My noble friend Lady Elles explained eloquently the skilled and professional work that is carried out by the Caldecott Community, near Ashford in Kent. That community is fortunate to have people of such calibre on its board of trustees. Its training course for mature students is something that we are watching with great interest. We believe that it is a worthwhile development and we wish all concerned well with that new venture.

In conclusion, the question raised by my noble friend Lady Faithfull is an important one. It is essential that we have social workers who are able to deal confidently and competently with the problems presented by children and their parents as well as those with mental illnesses, a visual or sensory handicap, elderly people and others who use social services.

Some may see the question of three years for the basic training of social workers as an ideal and, if money was no object, perhaps we would all agree. However, as your Lordships will, I hope, agree, the Government must pay attention to the needs of all social services staff taking into account the available resources. It is essential that all staff are equipped to carry out their work. To this end, we have introduced and maintained the training support programme which is very popular with local authorities. It not only funds particular training according to local needs but also helps social services departments to adopt a planned approach to training.

The Government will continue to make their contribution to the funding of the training and development of all social services staff, including social workers. Indeed, I hope that I have made it clear just how substantial the level of funding to social services training is this year.

I agree with my noble friends Lady Faithfull and Lady Elles and with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that social workers are often unheralded and unknown. Much of what they do is often unseen. In fact, we could say that the aim of social workers is to make themselves unnecessary. But, alas, they are necessary, and we need to hear more about their good work and ensure that with good training they are equipped to fulfil their difficult professional role.

We expect a lot from social workers. Sometimes we may expect too much. We need to be realistic about what they can do, and we need to support them with training that is relevant, right and of a high quality. That is what we are currently seeking to do.

7.20 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, first, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate. I am deeply grateful to them. I have had letters from six other noble Lords who wished to take part in the debate and who would

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have supported the Motion, but who were unable to be with us. I thank also my noble friend the Minister for her, as always, charming, good and carefully thought out reply. Sadly, I have to say that I could not agree with it, and I think she knows that. All of us, including noble Lords who were unable to be here but who would have liked to have taken part, will be disappointed that my noble friend does not feel that the Government can support a three-year course, something we have all recommended and for which recommendations have come from almost every university, the Association of Directors of Social Services, and the British Association of Social Workers. I am sad that the Government take the view that it could not be.

A two-year course with a post-qualifying course was debated in 1987. My noble friend the Minister said that we had not yet got under way with such courses. But that was seven years ago. The post-qualifying course may be working in some parts of the country, but it is not working throughout the country for the simple reason I gave earlier—that the local authorities do not have the resources to send people on the post-qualifying courses or to appoint staff to take their places during that year. So the post-qualifying courses are not working. I am afraid that is no good my noble friend the Minister saying—I am sure she will forgive me for saying this—that we are getting such courses under way. Seven years is a long time, so I am sad that the Government feel that they cannot support the Motion, particularly as I believe that such courses would be cost-effective in the long run, as I have said previously.

Some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, and my noble friend Lady Cox, spoke in stringent terms about the courses. I am glad to hear some stringency enter the debate. That is very healthy. But I must point out that the HEFC has looked into the training courses this year. It found that 20 per cent. of the courses were excellent and completed innovative, practical links with day-to-day social work, and that the bad courses should not distort views about some of the good courses that we have.

As some noble Lords have said, in the past CETSW has put out some unwise political statements. That is not the case today. If I were to have a dream which came true it would be that there was to be a three-year course. I hope that the Government will take the view that the Department of Health took over the Children Act 1989, and issue guidelines. The Department of Health's guidelines on the implementation of the Children Act 1989 are splendid. I hope that the Government will issue similar guidelines on the training of social workers. I believe that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway will agree with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, and my noble friend Lady Elles spoke about the training of residential social workers. The children we have in residential care are the most difficult, the most disruptive and the most delinquent. Their residential social workers deserve a good training equal to that of field social workers. Field social workers and residential social workers must work in partnership.

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My final point was not covered by my noble friend the Minister. She usually covers every point, and we greatly admire her position on the Front Bench for the Department of Health, but she did not mention the fact that social workers are equal colleagues, sometimes taking the major responsibility with doctors—the noble Lord, Lord Rea, will understand this—with teachers and health visitors, and yet they are not trained as highly as those colleagues with whom they work in partnership.

I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I would point out to my noble friend the Minister that there has not just been full support here for the Motion but there has been full support for the proposal throughout the country. Perhaps she will sleep on that tonight and think differently come the morning. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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