Register of social work students in England ‘unnecessary’

Universities and colleges are better placed to regulate students, finds the Health Professions Council

The Health Professions Council (HPC) looks set to phase out the register of social work students after it takes over as regulator in England later this year.

The HPC has no immediate plans to scrap the student register when the General Social Care Council (GSCC) closes at the end of July. However, its council members today decided registration of social work students was not necessary to protect the public in the long term.

As a result, the HPC has agreed to look into alternative methods for regulating social work students, including proposals to place more responsibility on education providers.

Council members made the decision today after reviewing responses to its recent consultation on the most effective way of assuring the fitness to practise of students across all of the professions it regulates, including social work.

They will meet again in June to discuss interim measures the HPC could put in place to ensure the public is protected while the system is reformed.

The GSCC currently registers social work students for £10 per year. It argues that students on social work placements often have direct and unsupervised contact with vulnerable service users; registration ensures they understand the standard of practice required of them.

Technically the GSCC’s register is voluntary, but higher education institutions cannot access funds for practice placements unless its students are registered.

“Given the sheer weight of sector opinion in favour of continuing to register social work students, we are disappointed that the HPC council has decided not to maintain the student register in the long term,” said Penny Thompson, chief executive of the GSCC.

“This is a clear departure from the current system of student regulation that is in place across the UK.

“However, we are somewhat reassured that the HPC council recognises the unique situation that student social workers find themselves in whilst on practice placements and that they will look again at the requirements placed on social work education providers in England.”

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