Social workers in just over a third of UK local authorities are reimbursed for their registration fees, an investigation by Community Care has revealed.
However, while councils in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are fairly consistent in their approach to paying fees, in England a postcode lottery has emerged.
Roughly a third of councils in England – 51 of the 136 to respond to our freedom of information (FOI) request, or 37.5% – said they pay for or reimburse the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) fee, which is the highest in the UK. However, 72 councils do not.
Registration fees in England rose from £30 to £76 per year when the HCPC took over the regulation of social workers in 2011. In all other UK countries, it costs £30 per year to register.
Nine councils in England said they have agreed to reimburse at least part of the HCPC’s fees over the next year or two, to help social workers with the transition – and one has this proposal under review.
One council, North Lincolnshire, currently reimburses only its children’s social workers, although it is considering proposals to extend this to practitioners in adult social care.
A spokesperson for the council explained: “The council’s children’s services agreed to fund GSCC [General Social Care Council] fees to support the children’s social work workforce and as part of the recruitment and development of these social workers.
“The idea to continue to fund this for the first HCPC registration was an extension of this commitment.”
Only one local authority in Scotland – Eilean Siar – said it pays for its social workers to register with the Scottish Social Services Council. Dundee council did not respond to our FOI request; all other councils in Scotland said they do not pay for or reimburse the fees.
Similarly, four out of the five health and social care (HSC) trusts in Northern Ireland said they do not reimburse the fees. Northern HSC Trust did not respond.
On the other hand, 19 out of the 20 councils in Wales to respond to our FOI request do reimburse the £30 fee. Isle of Anglesey was the only council in Wales to say it does not, while Ceredigion and Vale of Glamorgan did not respond.
“We think it would be particularly welcome if more employers showed a willingness to contribute to registration fees,” said Joe Godden, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers.
“It is a hugely important part of their professional status and an important cornerstone of public protection.”