Moving the River: Rethinking Regulation in Social Work

Worsley, Aidan Richard clive orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3925-3297 (2022) Moving the River: Rethinking Regulation in Social Work. The British Journal of Social Work . ISSN 0045-3102

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Social work regulation in England has experienced a considerable period of change in recent years. The profession’s latest regulator, Social Work England, faces similar challenges to sister professions—and to social work internationally—to improve and focus regulatory activity to better protect the public. In examining activity around poor performance and fitness to practice (FTP), the author explores the potential for shifting the emphasis of a regulatory gaze to practice before problems occur, rather than always dealing with the after-effects (known as ‘upstreaming’). A case is also made for developing ‘formative spaces’—where organisations might construct interventions to address professional performance before recourse to regulatory structures. To examine the readiness of organisational structures to take on this task, a series of qualitative, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with experienced practitioners. Thematic analysis of the data illustrates a range of current strategies for dealing with these issues. In conclusion, this article promotes the idea of shifting the balance of regulatory activity away from FTP areas to more positive, proactive endeavours that might better protect the public and help the profession manage the challenges faced by the complexity of contemporary practice.

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