Career clinic: getting a criminal conviction while on a social work degree course

Q: I’m on a social work degree and I am registered with the General Social Care Council. I was caught using my mother’s concessionary Oyster card on London Underground. I only used it one day and it was a week before my bursary was due to come. Transport for London is taking me to court despite several apologies and a willingness to settle out of court. The charge is travelling on the Tube without intending to pay the fare. I’m planning to plead guilty. Do I need to tell anyone about it? If so, could I get thrown off my course?

A: Because there are many factors at play in any scenario, we can’t comment on your specific circumstances and how this might affect your course and future career, writes Hilary Lloyd. However, the first thing you should do is tell your university what has happened.

Social workers and social work students are required to declare criminal convictions when they register with the GSCC. They must also inform us of formal criminal charges that are pending. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which allows some convictions to become spent after a fixed period, does not apply here. The law expects prospective social workers to declare convictions even if they are spent. We will then examine the disclosed information case by case, assessing how this affects your suitability to be a social worker or social work student.

Once registered, social workers and students are obliged to tell us of any new convictions or charges as soon as they occur. Registrants are also required to notify the GSCC of other changes in their circumstances, such as change of address or change of employer. This is a requirement of registration and failure to do so can be considered a conduct matter and could lead to you appearing before a conduct committee.

Updating your registration details is easy – e-mail or log on to My GSCC. More details can be found at 

One tool we look at to assess someone’s suitability to join, or remain on, the social care register is the code of practice for social care workers. This sets out the standards expected of social workers and social work students as they go about their work. For instance, code five says that, as a social worker, you must “uphold public trust and confidence in social care services” and code two says you must “strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of service users and carers”.

Hilary Lloyd is interim director of regulation at the General Social Care Council


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“I started my MSc in social work in September but I want to explore the option of leaving. I haven’t enjoyed it at all and have been struggling with dyslexia. I scraped a 50% in my last essay which I am disheartened about as I put my all into it, but have come to realise that perhaps I’m just not cut out for academia. I am interested in finding out whether I can leave with some sort of qualification if I quit at the end of the year, and what will happen with the bursary and tuition fees? Will I have to pay these back?” Send your advice to

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