Registration of students tipped to be voluntary under HPC

Social work students in England could be registered on a voluntary basis when the Health Professions Council takes over regulation of the profession, Community Care has learned.

HPC chief executive Marc Seale had previously said that registration of students was not necessary to protect the public, and that monitoring was best left to higher education institutions.

But with the Health and Social Care Bill giving the HPC power to set up voluntary registers, Seale said it was likely the HPC would take this approach to regulating social work students.

The General Social Care Council, which registers students for £10 a year, welcomed the news.

The outgoing regulator’s chief executive, Penny Thompson, said: “We need some regulation of students so that, right from the outset of undertaking training, they sign up to understand the code of ethics and standards.

“There have been small numbers of people deemed unsuitable [to study social work] and the earlier you can determine that the better.”

Legislation set out in the Health and Social Care Bill enables the HPC to set up voluntary registers for students and the wider social care workforce after it takes responsibility for the social care register next year.

Seale said the HPC’s voluntary register for students would be run in a similar way to the compulsory register for qualified social workers.

“It would be quite closely aligned to the statutory registers,” he said.

The GSCC registers students on a voluntary basis. But, by linking registration to the funding available for practice placements, it has ensured that 95% of the 15,000 social work students in England are registered.

Since registration opened for students in 2005, the GSCC has refused nine applications and registered seven students with conditions. Ten students have been through the conduct process in the past year.

Responding to the second reading of Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Commons this week, the GSCC said in a statement: “As a minimum, voluntary registration should continue, moving to a requirement for all students before they begin practice placements with service users.”

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