Sector registers approval

The new social care regulatory bodies could be the biggest thing
to hit the workforce since the Community Care Act 1990. Despite
this, a survey of more than 1,700 social care staff in the UK by
Community Care shows plenty of confusion about the role of
the GSCC and its counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern

The findings show high levels of support for the concept of
registration and continuous professional development but also
anxieties and concerns about the process, (see key findings, facing

The survey reveals that, although 92 per cent of staff are aware of
the GSCC, there is a lack of awareness of some of its work. For
instance, 17 per cent of respondents said one of its jobs was to
keep a register of care homes, and one in 10 believed it was
responsible for auditing local authority spending on care (neither
of these are within the regulatory bodies’ remit).

One of the councils’ longer-term tasks is to extend the
registration scheme. Qualified social workers are the first group
to be registered but it is expected that many other groups will
also need to register eventually – something that a quarter of our
respondents did not know.

Despite this, there was great support (73 per cent) for the idea
that all social care staff must be registered. But, of the 27 per
cent who did not agree, nearly half believed that unskilled or
inexperienced staff without qualifications should be exempt,
followed closely by casual or temporary staff. This is an
interesting finding, because some might argue these are the two
groups that most need to be registered to ensure vulnerable people
are protected.

The GSCC and its counterparts are expected to become
self-financing. Their major source of income is registration fees,
currently set for qualified social workers at £30 a year. More
than half of respondents said this was reasonable, but there was a
marked split between higher and lower paid staff.

Although three-quarters of directors, department heads and area
managers believed it was a reasonable fee, less than half the
social workers agreed. However, there was opposition to the idea of
a fixed fee for everyone, with two-thirds suggesting that role or
income should be taken into account.

The new bodies are going to have significant powers to investigate
and discipline registrants. These include running misconduct
hearings, cautioning people and striking them off the

There was widespread support for these measures – nine in 10 agreed
with the four councils being able to strike people off, and eight
in 10 believed in the principle of holding public disciplinary

However, there was grave concern about the effectiveness of these
measures. Two-thirds said they did not have confidence that it
would prevent “unsuitable” people – such as someone who had
previously been dismissed for gross misconduct – from obtaining
another social care job. Paradoxically, a similar percentage were
worried that the register could bar good people from working.

Another potential source of difficulty is the continuous
professional development (CPD) requirement, equivalent to five days
or 30 hours a year. Eighty-three per cent agreed with the
introduction of CPD, with spot checks, and with sanctions against
those who fail to meet the requirement. But two-thirds said they
would find it difficult to take the time out to do their CPD, and
four-fifths said finding someone to cover for them while they did
this would be difficult.

In general the findings and the comments made by respondents (see
panel) were positive about the advent of registration. However,
questions remain for many. There is concern and confusion over how
parts of the system will work in practice, and many people are
sceptical about the advantages registration will bring. Finally,
the councils have much to do over the next few years if they want
everyone working in social care to understand and sign up to the

– More than 1,700 people completed our e-mail questionnaire. The
responses came from all over the UK, from people working across the
entire range of employers, client groups and workplaces, and
ranging from students to directors of social services.

Key findings

  • 11 per cent of qualified social workers have already
  • 18 per cent will only do so “when forced to” or not at
  • Qualified social workers were the group least likely to realise
    they would have to register before taking a new job.
  • Two-thirds believed the registration fee should be varied
    according to income.
  • Three-quarters did not realise there was a £5,000 fine for
    non-registration, and 62 per cent said this was too high.
  • 71 per cent believed registration would raise standards and
    improve the status of the workforce, but…
  • 65 per cent did not have confidence that the register would
    prevent unsuitable people from working in social care, and a
    similar number said they were concerned it would prevent good staff
    getting jobs.
  • 91 per cent said the social care councils should be able to
    strike people off.
  • 96 per cent agreed with disciplinary hearings held in
  • Only 16 per cent did not know about the requirement for
    continuous professional development (CPD).
  • 83 per cent agreed with spot checks to ensure people’s practice
    and learning are up to date, but…
  • 65 per cent would find it difficult to take time out to do
    their CPD, and 81 per cent would find it difficult to find someone
    to cover while they did it.   

Front line concerns 

The survey gave social care staff the chance to raise any
disquiet they felt about the changes. Here are some of their

  • “I am worried about false or malicious allegations against
    people, because mud sticks. How do we protect the reputation of
    wrongly accused staff while protecting vulnerable people from staff
    who do offend but are never proven guilty?” 
  • “Social workers increasingly work in fields where their role
    and profession is nebulous. Will registration and practice
    experience take account of this?” 
  • “I do not mind being registered but I object to paying for it.
    If the government wants to register social workers the government
    should pay.” 
  • “I support monitoring of standards of practice and training.
    But I do not like the sound of the disciplinary hearings and do not
    see how this promotes good practice – instead they will instil
  • “It feels like more bureaucracy that will drive workers away
    from an already demoralised profession.” 
  • “I have concerns about how the registration of temporary and
    agency staff will be managed. My local authority doesn’t take
    responsibility for the registration of agency staff.” 
  • “It feels slow in coming through to the ranks – some of the
    homes I inspect have never heard of the GSCC and I do not know
    anyone who has registered.” 
  • “Taking five days out is unrealistic when staff already find it
    hard to take leave and time off in lieu.” 
  • “It is ridiculous that we can’t have one board for England,
    Wales and Scotland.” 
  • “I understand the principles of registration, but good
    management of workers – ie regular and effective supervision –
    should ensure good working practices. Prevention is better than
    cure. To be struck off a register is all well and good but by then
    some serious incident has already occurred.” 
  • “The government are attempting to raise standards at one end
    and cut revenue at the other.” 
  • “I shall end up being registered with three councils. Each one
    will require CPD and the completion of huge forms. I only hope that
    my employer will help.” 
  • “The GSCC will be able to strike people off only if local
    authorities have the confidence to report them. The Consultancy
    Index, and its predecessors, List D and List 99 in social services
    and education, were not well trusted. The GSCC should ensure that
    the new system is simple to use, provides a robust defence for
    local authorities that use it and severely punishes any local
    authority that fails to use it.” 
  • “Discipline, training and practice systems are best left to the
    individual employer, and not some distant quango.” 
  • “I think that this is a mammoth task and will probably take
    years to achieve but it is a worthwhile project.”  
  • “At present, registration implies that only qualified people
    have a contribution to make. The majority of the workforce has
    always been unqualified and is likely to remain so for many years.
    Formalising the registration requirements is well intended but is
    likely to be another deterrent for people seeking entry to social
  • “I fully support the register. I am a registered nurse and have
    had to maintain CPD and registration for 20 years. It has focused
    minds on the needs of clients and the fact that you are
    professionally responsible for your actions. Lives depend on your
    professionalism. However, the fee is too high. In nursing it works
    out at £20 a year.”

View from the top

Reacting to the survey findings, General Social Care Council
chief executive Lynne Berry is urging social workers to register as
soon as possible. 

She says: “This survey shows that social workers believe
registration will raise their status and drive up standards.
However this will take time and the sooner they register the sooner
everyone – service users especially – will reap the rewards. 

“Every social worker in England is now able to sign up for
registration, and this survey gives us a good insight into the
sector’s views. We will work hard to take these on board, to ensure
everyone has the information they need to register with us.  

“But after a year of social work registration, only 11 per cent
of those surveyed have actually shown their support for higher
standards by sending in their forms and registering. Most of the
rest seem to be putting off filling in their form, even though 95
per cent know about the legal deadline of April 2005. We urge every
social worker to get a form and register without delay.”

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