Social workers in England will have to pay higher registration fees from April, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has confirmed.
The HCPC’s council has approved a proposal to increase the registration renewal fee from £76 to £80 per year and the scrutiny fee for first-time applicants from £53 to £56 per year, as well as increases to the readmission and restoration fees.
The increases will go ahead in the face of widespread opposition. Of the 521 individuals and organisations to respond to the HCPC’s consultation, 76% objected to the rise in renewal fees and 60% to the rise in scrutiny fees.
Many argued that an increase was unfair at a time when registrants had not seen their wages rise with inflation. Some suggested the HCPC should aim to make cost savings instead of increasing fees.
A number of social workers and social work representatives referred to the fact that the proposed increase would result in a significant increase compared to the fees previously paid for registration with the General Social Care Council.
However, a number of respondents agreed with the proposal, recognising that it was a small increase, which is below the rate of inflation.
The HCPC said the council’s decision to increase the fees followed an “in-depth analysis” of the responses to the consultation.
Marc Seale, chief executive and registrar of the HCPC, said: “We are very aware of the concerns raised by registrants about these increases and of the economic context in which we operate. For this reason, we have consciously managed our costs as efficiently as we can whilst striving to improve our effectiveness.
“The fees we charge pay for all our operating costs; these fees have not increased since 2009, despite rising costs. We have worked hard to limit the increases as much as possible, but it is crucial that we have sufficient funds to continue to operate efficiently and effectively in protecting the public.
“The new fee structure still means we have the lowest renewal fee of all the regulators overseen by the Professional Standards Authority. It also allows us to manage increases in costs in an incremental way, preventing financial difficulties which might otherwise lead to substantial unplanned increases to the fees.”
Subject to parliamentary approval, the new registration fee structure will come into effect on 1 April 2014. Social workers will be expected to renew their registration with the HCPC the following September.