Overseas social workers could be forced to sit English language tests in order to practise in England, under government proposals.
The government’s new social work regulator will be given powers to make social workers undertake the tests, under regulations included in the Children and Social Work Bill. The body will also be able to strike off any currently-registered practitioners found to not have “sufficient” knowledge of English language to practise “safely and effectively”.
The government said the move will bring social work in line with other professions, including nursing and midwifery. Nurses and midwives applying to work in the UK must complete an International English Language Test (IELT) and meet minimum scores for listening, reading and writing.
The proposals for social workers are set out in a policy document on social work regulation changes. The report said automatic testing could not currently be introduced for social workers from EU countries, but this would be kept under review in light of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
“It is vital that social workers have the necessary English language skills in order to care properly for and communicate with service users and members of the public. Any language controls must be fair and proportionate,” the report added.
The government plans for its new social work body to replace the HCPC as social work’s regulator from 2018. The new body will be a government executive agency and accountable to the education secretary.
The move will see the government oversee the profession’s regulation and professional standards. The HCPC is financially and operationally independent of government and is accountable to parliament rather than the government of the day.
The Children and Social Work Bill is currently going through parliament. Labour has opposed the bill’s regulation proposals.