Social work practices for adult social care

Andrew Lansley has announced that social work practices – groups of independent social workers who are contracted to local authorities but independent of them – are to be extended from children and young people’s services to adult social care.

Such organisations “discharge the statutory duties of the local authority” for their clients.

This is potentially of huge significance since it means that local authorities could delegate their two key statutory “touchpoints” – signing off a care package budget and reviews of care packages – to non-local authority bodies.

Importantly, this possibility won’t just be available to social work practices; the press notice accompanying Lansley’s announcement says that social work practices

could include other professionals or organisations considered appropriate for the services provided.

Whilst this undoubtedly means private sector companies, it also means disabled people’s organisations and social enterprises. There are some examples of such organisations providing significantly different types of services within adult social care with resulting outcomes much better than traditionally achieved (such as my own, ECDP), but the idea of SWPs creates a far greater range of opportunities.

It’s interesting, of course, that SWPs are thought – according to the Department of Health – to enable social workers to:

  • Spend more time with the individuals in their care and the bureaucratic burden on individual social workers is reduced.
  • Take decisions much closer to their clients, resulting in a more responsive service.
  • Feel empowered with more control over the day to day management of the practice.
  • Make use of the increased financial flexibility to deliver better outcomes by stepping back and thinking creatively about resource use.
  • Enjoy their jobs more – staff satisfaction levels for the children’s pilot have been high as staff feel empowered with more control over the day-to-day management of the Practice. They feel they are very much part of a decision-making team.

In the first place, that reads almost like an exact replica of the reasons for making services user-led, rather than led by professionals. In the second, it’s telling that the current social care system apparently doesn’t allow for any of these things.

Social work practices could be of huge significance. We will, as they say, watch this space.


Published by


Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

3 thoughts on “Social work practices for adult social care”

  1. I’m just over-cynical but my concern about these practices is that it will work in some service areas (adults with physical disabilities/adults with learning disabilities) but I’m less sure of how it will work with older adults where social workers often have much higher caseloads and the work is more often care management which arguably does not need to be carried out by a qualified social worker. I see there being far fewer adult social workers around in the future.
    There really needs to be a debate about what social workers actually do and what they/we should do. In mental health services, for example, we have more of a therapeutic role so it is perhaps easier to see these kinds of models.
    I suppose the other obvious question is where safeguarding will fall.
    I don’t want to be automatically cynical – the model of working more closely with non-profit organisations is remarkably promising but frankly, I don’t trust the government and and I am suspicious of some of the privatisation that has taken place in adult social care and has led to poorer standards of home care and residential care services.
    It would all, of course, have to be zero-cost.
    But I hope that all my cynicism fades and the new systems work fantastically well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s