Registration fees for social workers in England could rise “dramatically” if the government’s proposal to form a self-funded General Social Work Council goes ahead, unions have warned.
Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said professionals would inevitably bear the cost of having an independent regulator.
“If it is to stand on its own feet, the fees will go up dramatically,” he said. “And social workers will have to bear the full cost.”
Roger Kline, social care spokesperson for trade union Aspect, said the current registration fee of £30 a year could at least double. Nurses pay £76 a year to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
In its social care White Paper, Building the National Care Service, the government proposed that the General Social Care Council focus solely on social work regulation and education. Its responsibilities for other parts of the social care workforce would be transferred to the Health Professions Council, which would be renamed the Care Professions Council.
The GSCC would be known as the General Social Work Council (GSWC), fall under the umbrella of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence and, like healthcare regulators, become financially independent of government.
Although Dawson said social workers should be prepared to pay higher registration fees, he said there was “a very clear case” for the government to consider a basic pay rise for the profession.
“I think it should come from individuals but the government should recognise the pressures on social workers.”
Hilary Tompsett, newly-appointed vice-chair of the GSCC, said it would make sense to review pay scales when the regulation of social workers was reformed.
But she agreed with Kline that employers should consider covering the fees on behalf of practitioners.
Kline said: “If it’s a condition for working, why don’t employers pay?”
Although BASW and public sector union Unison have welcomed the plans for the GSCC to focus only on social work, Kline raised concerns about the impact this would have on integrated working with the wider social care sector.
“There would be a real risk under these proposals that regulation of social services staff would be fragmented and undermined, making it even more difficult for staff to raise concerns about the safety and quality of care and resources to provide them,” he said.
A spokesperson for the GSCC said the government’s proposal could lead to increases in the registration fees after 2010-11, but added: “Before we make any changes we will consult with social workers.”