Lyn Romeo has been tasked with leading the reform of adult social work at government level.  She has set out her top priorities.

Romeo says, will be one of her key priorities; to give adult social workers a much higher profile, banging a drum for the value, impact and influence social workers can have. “I don’t think that’s talked about enough. I don’t think enough people understand.”

Romeo has years of experience, as a social worker and then a manager. She started off in generic social work teams, before taking up roles as a residential social worker and approved social worker (since replaced by the role of approved mental health professional). Her first challenge in her new role will be to get the office of the chief social worker up and running within the government. Romeo says she will work closely with her children’s counterpart, Isabelle Trowler. “Both of us need to be on message that there are core professional values, skills and knowledge all social workers need. Beyond that there will be areas of specialism social workers develop through continuing professional development (CPD) and qualifications.”

She points out that a plenty of work has been done to improve the profession, particularly by the Social Work Reform Board, so her main role will be to support the ongoing implementation of those recommendations. “I think the reform board pretty much summed up what needs to happen around education and CPD and the requirement for employers to provide good supervisory arrangements, time for reflective supervision and practice, less focus on lots of form filling, bureaucracy and paperwork. The role of the chief social worker is to build the relationship between central government and driving those improvements forward in the field.”

She agrees with the College of Social Work that the profession needs to be more explicit about the role social workers have in relation to safeguarding and risk and dealing with capacity, deprivation of liberty, the complexities of loss and grief and the relationships between people who need support and their carers. In 2010, sector leaders produced a statement on the role of social workers in adults’ services, but apparently that did not go far enough for some. Care services minister Norman Lamb recently said the chief social worker for adults services would “develop a clear definition of social work within adults’ services”.

“It should be a good, solid, regulated role, which has standards and accountability, so that people can be assured that they’re being dealt with by professionals that meet certain standards and have certain capabilities, particularly around vulnerabilities in relation to risk, capacity and deprivation of liberty,” says Romeo. “That’s a key area we need to think about, social workers being recognised as the lead professionals in adult social care.”

She adds that social workers need to be able to relate to people, deal with complexity, live with a degree of uncertainty, promote human rights and make sure people are treated with dignity and respect. “That means taking into account their backgrounds, relationships and the needs that may be impacting on their ability to live as well as they can within their communities. It needs highly skilled and refined relationship building and using the professional self to understand and support somebody to make the changes they want. It’s not just about being smart.”

As well as education and training, Romeo says she will look at the role of mental health social workers and revisit the powers of entry debate, following the revelation that the College is going to campaign to have this provision included in the Care Bill.

At a time of squeezed budgets and increasing demand Romeo is optimistic that she can make a difference, saying “I’m quite optimistic; we’ve got a really good person in as chief executive of the College of Social Work [Annie Hudson], a strong chair in Jo [Cleary], we’ve got a strong ADASS [Association of Directors of Adult Social Services] president this year who’s very committed to social work, Sandie Keene, and we’ve got government commitment now with the offices of the chief social workers. Together we’re going to be able to drive this forward.  It will be collective effort, with me providing as much leadership and support as I can from the position I have within government. I’ll engage with and listen to social workers at all levels in the field and make sure I’m engaged with the key organisations that have a stake in that, but also, very importantly, people who use services and the carers that support them.”

Romeo will take up the chief social worker role in late summer/autumn.

Home Care Direct welcomes any moves towards improvements being made in adult services and social care and hope that by working together we can all try to improve the lives, health and well-being of all people in need of services nationwide, hear how we have done this for the people we already work with here.