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With the introduction of the Children’s and Social Work Bill, a new accreditation system for social workers and revised guidance on supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), the new national agenda for social care is taking shape. We speak to Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children & Families in Sanctuary Social Work News magazine to find out more.

Why are you proposing to set up a new regulator through the Children and Social Work Bill?

Throughout the process of the Bill so far, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the new regulator, which will be called Social Work England. The aim of the regulator is to strengthen the profession by improving training and support for social workers. Social Work England will also help recognise the particular challenges social workers face, and ensure they have the knowledge, skills and training they need in order to do the very best for the children and adults they serve.

Could you tell us about the plans to revise guidance on UASC?

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are alone, in an unfamiliar country, surrounded by people unable to speak their first language.

They are likely to be uncertain or unaware of who to trust – these are some of the most vulnerable children in the country. Because of the circumstances they have faced, some will have very complex needs. Special support must be tailored to the individual child and offered as soon as possible. In September 2016, the Department for Education (DfE) commissioned ECPAT, a non-governmental group campaigning against child trafficking and exploitation, and the Refugee Council to deliver training for foster carers and support workers of unaccompanied children who are not experienced in working with UASC.

On 6 March we launched the consultation on revised guidance setting out the steps that local authorities should consider taking to support unaccompanied asylum seeking children, unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery, including trafficking. The DfE is keen to gather your views and it's important that we get a strong social work perspective as part of any future practice advice. So please do respond to the consultation on

What will the proposed accreditation system achieve?

I understand, from my own experience, the immense pressure that social workers are facing at all levels of seniority. I also know the difference social work can make in the lives of children and families. But I appreciate you need to be able to know and do certain things to make that difference.

The introduction of the national assessment and accreditation system will have major implications for our profession, future practice and individual social workers. It will help us consistently build a highly skilled, capable and confident workforce. But it’s going to take time.

There are some big issues to resolve about how we can achieve our vision, who should be accredited and who should endorse the practice of agency workers. We need to strike a balance between introducing a system of post-qualification specialism without restricting movement of social workers between sectors and jurisdictions.

To hear more from Isabelle, including her initial thoughts on the success of the practice leader programme, turn to pages 06 and 07 in Sanctuary Social Work News

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