HCPC plans to add five new standards of proficiency for social workers

Changes to standards of proficiency will require social workers to be willing to reassess conclusions and identify professional resilience strategies

Social workers will need to “always be willing to reassess their conclusions” under new minimum expectations for social workers proposed by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The regulator plans to make several additions to the standards of proficiency for England’s social workers that would come into force by the end of the year. The proposals follow a review process involving a number of stakeholders.

In a consultation document published today, the HCPC set out plans for introducing five new standards, one of which will expect social workers to work “effectively whilst holding alternative, competing explanations in mind”.

The document says this standard aims to highlight the importance of social workers being “always willing to reassess their conclusions”, especially in safeguarding cases.

Professional resilience

Social workers would also be expected to be capable of identifying “strategies for professional resilience”. The need for social workers to have professional resilience strategies, such as skills for coping with the demands, challenges and pressures of the job, was highlighted by those participating in the HCPC’s review of the standards.

THe HCPC is also proposing a standard that says social workers should be able to “present reports in formal settings” such as courts and tribunals. While the existing standards refer to present formal reports, the new standard aims to make the HCPC’s expectations on this clearer.

Another new standard would require social workers to understand “the concept of leadership and its application to practice”. This new standard, common to other HCPC-regulated professions, is in response to how leadership ability at all levels is increasingly seen as important.

Safe use of information

Finally, the HCPC intends to add a standard covering “safe use of health and social care information” to its list of social worker proficiencies.

“We committed to reviewing the standards of proficiency for social workers in England once we had concluded a three-year programme of visits to pre-registration education and training programmes,” said Michael Guthrie, director of policy and standards at the HCPC.

“It is important to ensure the standards continue to be set at an appropriate level for entry to the HCPC Register and that they reflect the current practice.”

The consultation on the proposed changes ends on 24 June.

8 Responses to HCPC plans to add five new standards of proficiency for social workers

  1. Les Culshaw April 5, 2016 at 1:16 am #

    It is all well and good bringing out further standards. The main issue is that given many Social Workers currently do not follow the current policys and procedures and make things up as they go along without any fear of redress even from their goverming body.

    Would it not promote better standards in every aspect if they were personaly held accountable and the complains processes were made easier with the complaints handled by an external body? It is far to easy to say improve but lets get the current standards working first and the social workers fully accounable for own their actions.

    • Elody April 8, 2016 at 9:40 am #

      We are fully accountable for our professionals decisions although most of the time these decisions are made by a team of people…..and agreed by different layers of management….It is not social workers that do not follow policy and procedures; it’s Local Authorities that are under funded and badly managed which ask their staff to cut corner and tick boxes….Blaming is never a good idea or a solution I’m afraid. It definetly does not improve practice.

  2. Phill wheatley April 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    The professional journal of social workers just reported that the average professional lifespan of a social worker is approximately 7 years, professional footballer 8 years and life in the army, 10 years. Clearly then, professional resilience is an issue which deserves further Focus.

    What is also clear is that social workers, nurses, health and social care professionals are working within a broken system, where it becomes easier to blame the worker rather than the systems they work in. Having said that, standards are a good thing and raising the bar equally good, let’s hope professional burnout decreases then?

  3. G.Fox April 6, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    So where do the HCPC plans fit in with the Professional Standards Authority’s finding that the ‘iron cage’ of regulation needs rethinking? The PSA’s 2015 report highlighted that social work regulations that “frighten [registrants] into resentful compliance” is to the detriment of performance. Rather than inflexible and punitive regulation, which stopped practitioners from being innovative, there should be a greater focus on how regulators can support registrants’ professionalism and prevent them from being overburdened with rules and guidance. The idea that risk of harm can be totally eliminated threatens to corrode the public trust in professionals and in regulation itself. “All health and care interventions have an element of risk which cannot be totally eliminated,” the PSA pointed out (Community Care August 2015).

  4. Jacob Daly April 6, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    I am afraid that these new standards are yet another example of a Regulatory Body espousing ideals thst no human being could ever live up to 24/7. You can have as many standards as you like but the sad fact is that if you dont have equal standards directed towards employers you create a situation once again whereby the social worker can always be blamed. The current regulatory framework is actually quite focused upon idealism and I think this idealism needs revision. We need a Body that reflects human rights cross the board for social workers, service users and carers and employers. Anything less is oppression and not likely to engender much faith by social workers and indeed in social workers.

    • G.Fox April 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

      So where do the HCPC plans fit in with the Professional Standards Authority’s finding that the ‘iron cage’ of regulation needs rethinking? The PSA’s 2015 report highlighted that social work regulations that “frighten [registrants] into resentful compliance” is to the detriment of performance. Rather than inflexible and punitive regulation, which stopped practitioners from being innovative, there should be a greater focus on how regulators can support registrants’ professionalism and prevent them from being overburdened with rules and guidance. The idea that risk of harm can be totally eliminated threatens to corrode the public trust in professionals and in regulation itself. “All health and care interventions have an element of risk which cannot be totally eliminated,” the PSA pointed out (Community Care August 2015).

  5. Andrea April 6, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    start at the beginning – educational establishments ‘universities’ need to be held accountable for, or indeed stop, supporting and passing students who are simply not up to the mark because the institution needs to meet targets and thus ensure further funding.
    LAs need to stop insisting that managers accept students in order to meet targets with the politicising that it is encouraging good social work.
    It is beyond frustrating, as well as deeply concerning, to have to correct reports written by someone who allegedly holds a degree ( who actually wrote their essays ?) but cannot string a sentence together, and to be reliable on those who cannot analyse the information they have gathered beyond the formulaic approach taught.
    Bottom line – not enough people want to do social work, more standards and a change of regulating body is not the answer. Let us do the job and support us – rather than use us as political pawns in a cynical game.

  6. Tom J April 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    I had hoped that this was the April Fools story but no!

    The HCPC have created so many catch all standards that you could now pick up any social worker in the country and find a way that they have failed to live up to the standards at one of their panels.

    All efforts are focused on the individual social worker. You were stressed out with 50 cases? Why didn’t you tell your employer? Well did they not know I had 50 cases? I didn’t sneak them onto my caseload!

    Is the path to better social work really going to be through ever more standards?

    Social workers need to join Unison/Unite and BASW and start saying we’ve had enough at being hit over the head. How about some support and acknowledgement that we are now regularly being required to put out fires with water pistols and the problem is not with the person holding the water pistol!