Social work students in England are likely to face higher registration fees if the Health Professions Council maintains the voluntary register after it absorbs the General Social Care Council.
In a consultation on the future of the student register that was published today, the HPC estimated that the fee could rise from the current £10 a year to between £20 to £53 per annum.
The HPC said the hike was likely because, unlike the GSCC, it does not get government funding and must generate all its income from registration fees.
The consultation, which runs until 2 March 2012, asks for views on whether the HPC continues the voluntary register for social work students or abolishes it and introduce standards for education and training as it does for other professions.
Penny Thompson, chief executive of the GSCC, said the HPC should keep the register going. “Regulation of students is important in order to uphold the standards of the social work profession and to ensure public protection,” she said. “When on placements, social work students have unsupervised access to vulnerable service users, so it is important that a level of accountability is maintained.”
BASW also called for the voluntary register to be kept. “Just because health professionals don’t have a student register, it doesn’t mean that we in social work should lower our standards,” said Nushra Mansuri, professional officer England at BASW. She added that while a fee rise to £20 was reasonable, £53 “is quite disproportionate”.
At present 95% of social work students sign up for the GSCC’s register. While registration is voluntary, the GSCC will only fund practice placements involving registered social work students. Of the 160 conduct hearings heard by the GSCC in 2010/11, eight involved students.