Six days to go
Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Registration of social work has always been necessary and it is
long overdue. It has never been good enough to leave such vital
services in the hands of individual employers.
Nor would it have been consistent with social work principles for
the profession to have “self-regulated” in the way that others
continue to do.
However, the battle to secure an inclusive and supportive
independent regulatory system for social care is not yet over.
While the four councils in each of the UK’s countries have set
about their complex and demanding task enthusiastically, the
process thus far has been rather too bureaucratic and overly
focused on the prevention of misconduct rather than championing the
cause of social work and standing up for the principles that set it
apart from other professional groups.
Nobody would argue that people who need a service deserve the best
that can be provided and to be protected from unacceptable
treatment. But the last thing social workers need is yet another
stick to be beaten with. Decisions about conduct must be
proportionate and fair.
Registration and the protection of title represent our opportunity
to send out a loud and clear message about the knowledge and skills
that social workers possess and the complex and vital nature of our
duties and responsibilities in the wider context of social
There are those who baulk at the registration fee of £30 and
the continuous professional development requirements but surely
these are a small price to pay for a licence to care. We think
nothing of much higher dues for vehicle or television use. Of
course any responsible employer would ensure that a statutory
charge on their workers is properly recompensed.
The reluctance of some employers to do so is hard to
Five days to go
Catherine Watkins is a referral and assessment team manager
in a London borough
For many years social workers, myself included, have been keen for
social work to be viewed as a profession. Yet with only a few
months until the final deadline for registration in April, many
workers have yet to submit their application. So why the
I will send my application in just in time to meet the final
deadline. This is not because I don’t support the notion of
registration or of social work being viewed as a profession. It is
just a complete lack of motivation on my part as I am unclear what
difference this will make to my colleagues and me.
Child protection social workers have been damned if they do and
damned if they don’t for many years. The public image of social
workers remains poor, with a misconceived perception that all that
we do is remove children and destroy families, or conversely don’t
act to prevent children being subject to abuse.
There is a shortage of social workers who wish to work in the front
line, making assessments and recommending actions to help the child
and their family achieve their potential and protect children from
harm. I cannot see this changing with registration.
I believe passionately about the job I do and support the notion
that social workers should be registered. Yet many of us, when
asked what we do, choose not to answer truthfully because of the
negative response that often follows.
I believe that more needs to be done to raise the public profile of
social work, to stress the importance and value of social work and
to improve the pay afforded to social workers.
Until this happens, social workers paying the annual £30
registration fee are merely paying for choosing to work in a field
that is difficult and challenging.
Registration is only the first step along the path for social work
to be viewed as a profession.
Four days to go
Chris Hanvey, UK director of operations for
Like motherhood and apple pie, the registration of social workers
has to be a good thing. Equally good is the hoped-for reversal of
our present position in which being a qualified social worker has
sometimes, wrongly, felt like a criminal offence. From Maria
Colwell to Victoria Climbi’, public inquiries have pilloried social
workers, questioned their professional competence and critically
examined the set of shared values under which they operate.
With registration will also come the positives of a protected
title, adherence to a code of practice (also signed up to by
employers) and a new commitment to continuous professional
But while we all respond to the megaphoned requests of the GSCC to
register, there are a number of issues upon which the future
success of registration ultimately depends. The resolution of these
issues will also determine whether social work ever gains the
enhanced status it so badly needs.
The first is the care councils themselves. If the codes of practice
are to be real and binding they will need to steer a careful path
between the twin rocks of social work agencies’ own disciplinary
codes and that wider public accountability they will come to
assume. When the next child protection case hits the headlines – as
it inevitably will – there will be three players involved: a local
authority, a public inquiry and a care council. How the care
council responds will largely determine public confidence.
Second, the commendable commitment to continuous professional
development has a long way to go, if the stipulated training or
study is to be meaningful and consistent across the UK.
Finally, and returning to the care councils, the issue of the fee
is perhaps not as important as what it represents. The councils’
ability to help mould a truly professional workforce is probably
the best – and last – chance we will get.
Three days to go
Robert Johnstone, president of Arthritis and Rheumatism
Johnstone has had rheumatoid arthritis since the age of three and
is a regular wheelchair user. His wife is his main carer, but he
also uses direct payments on an ad-hoc basis.
I’ve had a lot of contact with social workers and social care staff
in the past, and I’ve been lucky that most of them have been pretty
good. From my “consumer’s” point of view, I completely support the
idea of registration – it is long overdue.
I do have some sympathy with social workers about the fee. Yes,
accountants and solicitors also have to pay to maintain their
professional identity but their income is rather different. It is
an issue for unions and for pay negotiations – surely it’s not
difficult to incorporate an extra £30 into salary increments
to cover the costs of registration?
My experience on a Nursing and Midwifery Council committee suggests
that registration can take a heck of a long time to come through.
So I’d support the idea of a period of grace after the final 1
April deadline – say until 1 September. But only for those people
who had submitted applications before 1 April – the deadline has to
I do support the extension of the registration scheme to other
groups of social care staff. But it must not be based on academic
qualifications, because they are far less important than someone’s
attitude, willingness and interest in the work.
And there must be a sensible way of fitting in people like myself
who use direct payments. If I was using direct payments to get
personal carers or to employ people I didn’t know, I would be
happier going through an agency and using registered staff. But it
would be completely ludicrous for all the people I employ to do
small things for me – such as driving me somewhere or doing a bit
of shopping – to have to be registered. That should be sorted out
before new groups of staff are brought into the scheme.
Two days to go
Daphne Statham, vice-president of the Social Care
Association, former director of National Institute for Social
The profession fought long and hard to become regulated.
We achieved it through alliances with people using services,
employers and trade unions. So the resistance to registration and
paying the fee seems strange in the light of these struggles.
The idea was that in addition to protecting the public,
registration as individuals – rather than as employees – and paying
the fee ourselves gave us a reference point for standards and
expectations outside our place of employment. We anticipated that
the fee could be problematic for social care workers, whose pay is
often low, but we have not reached this stage yet.
Registration was thought of as giving us a sense of professional
identity wherever we worked and whoever we worked for. The codes of
practice are a unifying banner for all staff working in social work
and social care and fit well with the international definition of
social work. This sense of purpose should not get lost in the
mechanics of registration.
The drama of this phase will pass and future social workers’
registration will be routine: their forms will begin at the
beginning of their career rather than with a retrospective trek
through piles of papers.
Once this first haul is over we need to quickly set a timetable for
the registration of social care workers who provide personal and
often intimate services to people. Similarly, rehabilitation
officers for people with a visual impairment have very similar
roles to social workers and come into contact with growing numbers
of older people where the incidence of visual impairment is the
The timetable must be realistic and may be 2015 for some groups,
but being open and upfront about when the registration of these
groups can begin in England would be welcome.
One day to go
Lynne Berry, chief executive of the General Social Care
It is wonderful to see so many thousands of social workers applying
for registration. But in the rush to register I don’t want people
to lose sight of what this means for social work and for public
confidence in the sector.
For me, registration is the key to building a quality workforce, to
setting out the value of social work professionals and to ensuring
social workers can take similar pride in their status as other
One of the main reasons to celebrate registration is that for the
first time it will set out what is special about social work.
Protecting the title “social worker” will give a signal that social
workers have been professionally trained, are committed to social
care values and to putting service users at the heart of what we
do. Training, high standards and accountability will be an integral
part of professional status, not an optional extra.
Social workers increasingly work in interdisciplinary teams with
professionals such as teachers and health workers, all of whom have
been regulated for years. At last we have caught up with them.
Social workers will often be leading these teams and registration
will reinforce mutual respect.
As a qualified social worker, registration means something to me
personally. When I started in social work many years ago, social
workers were saying that the profession should be regulated. Well
finally we are – a profession in every way.