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Abstract

Major change is underway in Irish social care. Toward the professionalisation of social care workers in the Republic of Ireland, standards of proficiency were drafted and published in 2017 by the Social Care Workers Registration Board. These standards represent the threshold of what a worker must demonstrate at the point of entry to the register and as such, critical inquiry into their nature and merit is both indispensable and required, be it through stakeholders in the field, or from social care academia. Theoretically informed appraisal of standards of proficiency in this paper occurs through a composite social constructionist frame. Therein, four core conventions of social constructionism theory underpinning the framework, are critically applied in this paper, across five domains overarching the standards of proficiency. The four assumptions are as follows. Firstly, the historical and cultural specificity of standards should be considered. Here, it is imperative that the role of history and culture in developing, appraising and applying standards is scrutinized. Secondly, knowledge should be understood as sustained by social processes. Within this, knowledge surrounding social care and standards of proficiency is deemed to be socially constructed. Thirdly, knowledge and social action should be seen as occurring together, and in this way, mutually influential. Fourth and finally, one must adopt a critical stance towards taken for granted knowledge. The intention of analysis is modest. Namely, to provide fodder to fuel critical understanding of the implications of standards of proficiency, for students and practitioners, now confronted by a complex and evolving occupational milieu.

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