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July 24, 2009

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) is the regulatory body (a Quango – but let that pass) for Social Workers in England. It terms itself the Social Care Workforce Regulator but since its inception in 2001 has only got round to registering Social Workers and social work students. It hopes, at some future point, to regulate the much larger and more mobile and difficult to define group they call the “home care workforce”; home helps, nannies, volunteer helpers, outreach workers, au pairs, perhaps even baby-sitters.

Anyway, to work as a Social Worker nowadays you have to be registered with the GSCC. If you put yourself about as being a Social Worker without being registered you are being very naughty but as hardly anyone apart from social workers have heard of the GSCC your chances of being caught out are pretty small. Getting registered is not easy; believe me – I’ve done it. You have to get yourself cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau, show that you are not on any official black list and prove you are actually qualified – in itself is not at all easy if you qualified some years ago or in another country. And, having done all that, you must send in all sorts of documents to show you are who you say you are and prove that you have done a lot of further courses and studies alongside the enormous caseload your employer will have given you. Phew. Oh, by the way, did I mention you have to pay for all this too? And do it all again every three years?

Having gone through and got registered you would have thought that really guarantees you professional status. That you and the public can be assured of your professionalism and integrity and that, if by any chance you do any serious wrong you will be found out and struck off. You would not think that you would be sharing the register with a convicted criminal. Well, you wouldn’t until you heard of the case of Lynda Barnes. She was convicted of conspiring to murder her husband in 1995. In 2005 she was appointed as an Assistant Social Work Team Manager in a west of England local authority. In 2006 she was promoted to Team Manager and also in 2006 was registered as a Social Worker by the GSCC. Apparently she disclosed her past criminal conviction to both her employer and the GSCC. This information only got into the public domain this year when one of her team members accused her of telling lies in court and a Judge looked into the matter and gave judgment in public.

What, I ask myself, were the local authority and the GSCC thinking of? Did it not cross their minds that the public might get to know about Ms Barnes and her past; indeed had a right to know? Did they not consider the sort of conclusions the public might then draw about the standards applied by those whose job it is to protect them from rogue professionals?

The conclusion Joe Public will draw is that, just as he suspected, most social workers are not only useless but ex-cons too. Thanks GSCC.

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