The Standards for employers of social workers in England

Good social work can transform people’s lives and protect them from harm.

Someone giving a helping hand to another

Why do we need the standards for employers?

Good social work can transform people’s lives and protect them from harm. In order to achieve consistently high-quality outcomes for service users and their carers, social workers must have and maintain the skills and knowledge to establish effective relationships with children, adults, families, and professionals in a range of agencies and settings, and be the key connectors in communities.

Employers should implement a whole systems approach to supporting the social work profession. These Standards set out the key components of whole systems approaches, and employers can use them to enhance their reputation as a service provider and employer by helping to develop a working environment where social work practice and social workers can flourish, in turn supporting recruitment and retention.

What are they?

These are standards, which set out the shared core expectations of employers which will enable social workers in all employment settings to work effectively and safely. These expectations can be used within self-regulation and improvement frameworks for public services and by service regulators. All employers providing a social work service should establish a monitoring system by which they can assess their organisation’s performance against this framework, set a process for review and, where necessary, outline their plans for improvement.

Strategic lead social workers/principal social workers must understand and manage the organisational responsibility across all standards. Employers should ensure their systems, structures and processes promote equality and do not discriminate against any employee.

Who do they apply to?

The standards are relevant to all employers of social workers. They relate to all registered social workers employed within an organisation, including managers and social work students. It is expected that these standards will be relevant in all settings and however social workers are employed as well as applying to social workers within the education and training sector. More information on how these standards apply to health and care organisations is available from Health Education England.

How were they developed?

Partners across the sector developed these standards between 2009 and 2012 as part of the Social Work Reform Board. The LGA hosts the standards on its website on behalf of the sector and continues to work with stakeholder partners on their regular review through the Standards for Employers Working Group. The Group membership in March 2020 is listed in the stakeholder section of this guide. The standards have been refreshed in May 2014 and March 2020.

How do we support the employment of social workers across different agencies?

We recognise that many more social workers are now being employed across the NHS, independent sector and voluntary and community services. The skills and experiences of social work are highly valued within these organisations, especially with the move within the long-term plan to a more community based and prevention focus. The largest number of social workers is employed within integrated mental health services. We have worked closely with our colleagues in the Health Education England New Roles Social Work group, who have produced detailed guidance and support documents on how to support social workers in the NHS and other agencies and have linked this work to these standards to demonstrate how they apply across a range of health and care organisations.

You will be able to access these tools at the HEE New Roles website.

You can also access these tools from the Skills for Care Social Work website.

List of stakeholders involved
  • The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)
  • The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS)
  • British Association of Social workers (BASW)
  • The Department of Education (DfE)
  • The Department of Health (DHSC)
  • Health Education England
  • Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JucSWEC)
  • Local Government Association (LGA)
  • NSPCC
  • SCIE
  • Skills for Care (SfC)
  • Social Work England
  • UNISON the Public Service Union
  • What Works Centre
  • The Adult Principal Social Worker Network
  • The Children’s Principal Social Worker Network