Northern Ireland could become the first UK country to introduce compulsory registration for its entire social care workforce.
The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has launched a consultation, which could extend compulsory registration, which currently applies only to social workers and social work students, to a further 23,000 social care workers.
‘Inequity between registered and unregistered’
“Without compulsion to register, full take up by social care workers will not be achieved within an acceptable timeframe. The current position creates an inequity between those who are registered and those who are not,” said the consultation paper.
The proposal sets out a timetable for when the remaining groups of social care workers need to be registered with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, starting with residential child care staff and managers of day centres by July 2010.
This would be followed a year later by domiciliary managers and residential care workers, social work assistants, drivers, rehabiliation officers, residential family centre workers and personal advisers and, finally, domiciliary care workers by July 2013.
Offence not to register
After these dates it will be an offence to work while not being registered.
There will be a grace period of a maximum of six months for new entrants or returners to the workforce to allow them to start work while they achieve registration, as long as they apply as soon as possible after being employed.
The consultation is also seeking views on extending the length of registration for certain categories of social care worker to allow sufficient time to achieve the NISCC’s post-registration and learning requirements. Currently social workers are required to renew their registration every three years. The consultation closes on 26 October.
England, Scotland and Wales
In England, the General Social Care Council requires social workers and social work students to register with it but the register is not open to any other group even on a voluntary basis. It was announced earlier this year that the register would open to domiciliary care staff next year on a voluntary basis.
In Wales registration with the Care Council for Wales is compulsory for social workers, social work students and social care managers, along with residential child care managers and workers.
Scotland is planning to have most groups of social care workers registered with the Scottish Social Services Council by 2015.