Clause 198

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 29th March 2011.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Minister (Health) 11:30 am, 29th March 2011

I beg to move amendment 547, in clause 198, page 169, leave out line 7 and insert—

‘(b) is to change its name to the Social Work and Health Professions Council.’.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 548, in clause 198, page 169, line 12, leave out

‘“The Health and Care Professions Council”’ and insert

‘“The Social Work and Health Professions Council”’.

Amendment 549, in clause 198, page 169, line 16, leave out

‘“the Health and Care Professions Council”’ and insert

‘“the Social Work and Health Professions Council”’.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Minister (Health)

This is about the name. Although on the face of it, it seems a superficial concern, it has caused a great deal of anger among social workers. The General Social Care Council will be abolished. It regulates social workers, who will be brought under the wing of the Health Professions Council which may or may not change its name to acknowledge that and other changes. Social workers are not happy with the new name. They would like to know what other care professionals it is envisaged the Government will regulate. Registration will be looked after by the Health and Care Professions Council, if that is what its name will be, but it will be voluntary and very light touch, which we think is wrong.

The one non-health body that emphatically will be regulated by the new body consists of social workers. Why can its name not reflect that fact? There is a great deal of anger about this and words such as “insult” have been used to describe the Government’s proposal. Perhaps I can give the Minister a taste of how strongly social workers feel about this by reading a couple of lines from my briefing note, which says that

“changing its title to the Health and Care Professions Council is absurd because it will have no ‘care professions’ under its control and disgraceful because it doesn’t even mention the profession whose numbers will far outweigh all of the other professions it regulates.”

That is how strongly the profession feels about this. The amendment attempts to change the name so that it properly reflects the outstanding professionals who will be part of this body and need to be regulated by it.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow The Minister of State, Department of Health

I am always cautious when words like “anger” are used when an amendment is moved. I can well understand that there is feeling and concern but it is almost too strong to suggest that there is anger about the name when what we should focus on is its purpose. The purpose is very clear and it is one that we share: it is to make sure that we have the most effective set of arrangements as possible for the regulation of professional standards and the setting of educational standards to protect the interests of the public. Had the concern been as substantial as is now suggested perhaps in the 10 years since the introduction of the Care Standards Act 2000, some consideration might have been given to  changing the name of the General Social Care Council to reflect the fact that it predominantly regulated social workers.

It is curious to suggest that the name should be such a touchstone, as the reality should be how we ensure that the measure delivers what the profession needs, which is certainty, consistency and greater status and standing. However, the issue of the name is not unimportant, and over the past few months I have spent many meetings discussing those concerns. The name of the new organisation has been a matter of considerable debate, and we have made it absolutely clear that the name of the Health Professions Council will change to reflect its wider remit across both health and social care. The Government sought advice on a preferred new name from the social work regulation oversight group to which I referred in an earlier debate, and which is there to advise Ministers on the smooth transition. The oversight group proposed two options: the “Care Professions Council”, which I suspect falls foul of the concerns that the hon. Lady has just described, and the “Health and Care Professions Council”. The Government’s view was that the latter name would reflect the functions of the council as a whole more accurately.

The Health Professions Council regulates 15 professions, each of which makes important contributions to the well-being of people in England and the wider UK. None of those professions are specially mentioned in the name of the Health Professions Council, as it would not be right to single out one profession and place it above all others. However, the Health Professions Council has acknowledged that, given the increasing breadth of professions that it will regulate, greater public clarity of its role is needed. It has confirmed to me that its new name will be supported by a very clear strap line, “Regulating health, psychological and social work professions”. If the hon. Lady has not been reassured by my comments, I urge my hon. Friends to vote against this alternative name change and support the change proposed in the clause. On that basis I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Minister (Health)

I will try not to rise to the Minister’s challenge as to my bona fides when I express the anger that social workers have told me that they feel about this issue. I read him part of my briefing note, and I assure him that people do feel very strongly about it. I am surprised that he challenged my truthfulness in relation to this. I do not intend to withdraw the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 13.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 198 ordered to stand part of the Bill.