Unregistered social workers can be prosecuted despite licence to work

General Social Care Council letters giving unregistered social
workers a licence to work are no bar to prosecution under
protection of title legislation.

The GSCC said it was up to the Crown Prosecution Service and the
courts to decide the legal status of the letters, which have been
sent to thousands of unregistered social workers who have
demonstrated an intent to register.

A spokesperson said: “It’s something they can show to an employer,
potential employer or the police. We don’t offer them a legal
waiver. We wouldn’t presume a court would suggest that the letter
was acceptable.”

Under the law, it is illegal to call yourself a social worker with
intent to deceive, hence the importance of demonstrating intent by
applying for registration.

Social workers who are practising but unregistered could be fined
up to £5,000.

The GSCC said almost 59,000 social workers were on the register and
was considering applications from more than 7,000 others, with
almost 3,000 forms received since April and 200 coming in every

Some of the applications would be from final-year students applying
for registration ahead of receiving their diplomas in social work,
but many will be from front-line social workers who were told to
apply by 1 December last year.

Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, said he sympathised with the GSCC.

He added: “Some [social workers] put their heads in the sand over
such issues. The GSCC is walking a tightrope in trying to be
reasonable and making sure they don’t give people a licence to

However, speaking at a recruitment conference last month, GSCC
regulation director Heather Wing admitted there were “lessons to be
learned” from the way it had handled the registration process.

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