19/03/2003

Social care publications launched by health minister

Social care in Northern Ireland, past, present and future, came under the spotlight today when Des Browne, MP, the Minister responsible for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, launched two new publications by the Department’s Social Services Inspectorate.

Launching 'A Better Future – 50 Years of Childcare in Northern Ireland 1950-2000' and a new Framework Specification for social work training, the Minister said both publications complemented themselves, representing all that is best in social care in Northern Ireland.

He added: “'A Better Future', a review of developments in childcare, is a timely reminder of how far we have come from the outmoded idea that ‘children should be seen and not heard’, to a service based on the modern ideal that the voices of children should be heard and valued. The rights of children are now centre stage, both nationally and internationally. To underline this, we are about to appoint our first Children’s Commissioner and will soon be issuing a Children’s Strategy for Northern Ireland.”

Pointing to the strides that have been made in children’s services over 50 years, the Minister said: “The review shows that, in the very difficult but vital area of childcare, Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of new developments. We were the first region of the UK to establish the formal monitoring and inspection of all children’s homes and are still the only region to require a social work qualification for residential social workers. Today we have 60% of such workers qualified compared with 5% in England.

"'A Better Future' also shows that there is still much to be done to meet the challenges of an ever changing society. To ensure that we continue to build on the solid foundations established over the last 50 years and to provide future generations of social workers with the skills they will need, a specification has been developed for a new honours degree in Social Work. The Framework Specification, which has been developed following wide consultation with key organisations and individuals, sets out the academic knowledge, skills and standards needed for modern social work," he added.

Mr Browne added that it was entirely fitting that alongside ‘A Better Future’, which is a celebration of all that is best in childcare over the past 50 years, his department should be launching a document which ultimately will lead to better training for future generations of social workers.

“If we can take on board the messages from the past and ensure that social workers are equipped to deal with the demands to come, I believe this will indeed lead to ‘A Better Future’ for our social services and the people they serve," he concluded.

The review of social work training carried out in the late 1990’s demonstrated a need for reform. In October 2001, the then Minister announced a package of reforms to improve education and training for social work.

The Framework Specification will be delivered at the level of an honours degree. Social work graduates will then have one year in employment before being assessed for inclusion on the professional register of the NI Social Care Council.

(MB)

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