The abolition of the General Social Care Council will have far-reaching implications for social care and social workers, including the cost of registration, regulation of professionals and training.
The government has said it will be cheaper for social workers to register with the Health Professions Council (HPC), which currently charges £76 a year, than it would have been to register with an independent social work regulator. However, this is more than double the £30 social workers currently pay to register with the government-subsidised GSCC. It is also unclear whether the economy of scale offered by the HPC will offset the cost of bringing in people who have the necessary knowledge and experience to be able to regulate social work.
Post-registration teaching and learning
Registration with the HPC is linked to continuing professional development, but it approves only a “small number” of post-registration qualifications. The GSCC currently approves all courses offering a formal post-qualifying award and reviews them every five years.
The HPC operates a fitness to practise system, which looks at professional competence as well as conduct. Both the Social Work Task Force and the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence have previously recommended that social work should move to a similar model.
Codes of practice
The GSCC has been reviewing its codes of practice for social care workers and employers in the context of work being done by the Social Work Reform Board to develop a national standard for employers. The HPC sets out mandatory “standards of proficiency” for its registrants, which will now be developed for social workers. However, it is unclear what the impact will be on the code and standards for employers.
The HPC does not register students, suggesting there is “insufficient evidence” that it is necessary to protect the public. Yet this is an important part of the GSCC’s remit, because social work students can be placed in frontline teams within weeks of beginning a course, with access to vulnerable children and adults.
Responsibility for regulating education will transfer to the HPC, which will continue to provide a list of approved courses. The GSCC recently began publishing inspection reports of individual undergraduate and postgraduate social work degree programmes. Similarly, the HPC publishes “approval visit reports” for education providers.
Sector leaders shocked and surprised by abolition of GSCC
GSCC backlog cleared but conduct reforms now in limbo
Role of the Health Professions Council and changes to quangos
Commentary: Abolition of GSCC is a leap into the unknown