Delays likely in transfer of social workers to new regulator

The HCPC fears the government’s "ambitious timescale" could pose problems for transfer to Social Work England

The Health and Care Professions Council has flagged the likely risk of the government being unable to transfer social workers to a new regulator by September next year.

Documents prepared for a HCPC council meeting state that “delay is expected” on the plan to move social workers to Social Work England by the end of September 2018, and the HCPC’s risk register warns of a ‘high’ risk that the government’s “ambitious timetable” will cause the project to fail.

That risk was rated as ‘medium’ in January. The risk of Brexit hampering the transfer by reducing the time government advisers have to work on the project has also been escalated from ‘low’ to ‘high’.

Concerns also surround the amount of parliamentary time available, with the government still to lay the secondary legislation needed to underpin Social Work England’s work.

A Department for Education spokesperson told Community Care an update on plans for Social Work England would be announced in due course. The spokesperson declined to say if the estimated £16m cost of the project would rise.

Both the HCPC and the DfE said they were committed to working together to ensure a safe and smooth transfer.

The move to Social Work England marks the second time social workers have switched regulator in recent years. The government scrapped the General Social Care Council in 2012 and moved social work into the HCPC’s remit. That transfer took two years and cost £19.2m, £7m more than the government estimated.

Marc Seale, the HCPC’s chief executive, told Community Care that the Social Work England project was “fundamentally” different because the GSCC was transferring functions to an existing regulator, with an established fitness to practise and registration infrastructure, rather than an entirely new body.

He said the HCPC would work closely with DfE and other stakeholders on the transfer and still assumed the department wanted a September 2018 move.

“The issue is that if this is a fixed timetable and time is slipping away, then getting it done in a shorter period is going to be more challenging.

“You can always do things quickly but it costs more money and if you do things too quickly it increases the risk. So [on the risk register] we’re just highlighting it from our perspective.

“But we haven’t sat down with the other side [Social Work England], because there’s currently no other side to sit down with. Our position is that we want the new regulator to be a success.”

In a report published last week, the Professional Standards Authority, the umbrella body for regulators, raised concerns that the decision to set up a dedicated social work regulator was out of step with wider government policy to consolidate the number of health and care regulators.

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4 Responses to Delays likely in transfer of social workers to new regulator

  1. Fred July 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    HCPC is like its SSSC counterpart in Scotland a disgraceful waste of money.
    The cost of membership fees are nothing short of a financial attack on social workers and the fitness to practice hearings are a savage attack on the social work profession.
    I know someone locally who was foolish enough to be done for driving just over the very low alcohol limit. She was:
    1. prosecuted fined and banned. (1st trial – consequence or punishment)
    2. disciplined by her employer and final warned as well as obliged to undertake alcohol awareness training (2nd trial – consequence or punishment)
    3. Fitness to practice hearinged – ordered to repeat the alcohol awareness (3rd trial consequence or punishment)
    4. Tried by the local press as the fitness to practice hearing with her name and all the details made public – a trial by media – involving public humiliation of her and her profession (4th trail, consequence or punishment)
    And of course the poor woman had to pay her ludicrous registration fees for the privilege of being publically humiliated.

    So one bad mistake – 4 trials; all because of the crazy ideas that publically humiliating social workers who make mistakes will assist the profession of social work.

    A set of strict criteria to be followed prior to the employment of anyone is social work/social care would achieve just as much as SSSC/HCPC for a fraction of the cost, and that is human cost as well as financial.

  2. Angel July 9, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    As a social worker I don’t agree with the statement ‘it’s the second time social workers have switched regulators in recent years’. To me this statement is written as as I I had achoice….nobody asked me if I wanted to switch. And to go from paying £30 to about £90 quid a year? total rip off, which incidentally played a big role in my decision to leave social work.

    I’m also confused about what Marc Seale said about ‘transferring functions to an existing regulator…..rather than an entirely new body. So who is the existing regulator, is if not the hcpc? Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Frustrated July 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

      When HCPC accepted SW from GSCC they were fully up and running as a regulator and regulated 15 (?) professions and had all the systems in place for approval of qualifying programmes, registration, FTP and CPD processes. Social work England doesn’t exist yet and when it is created it will have to establish all these functions as a single regulator. £30 a year for GSCC was subsidised heavily by the government and I have a feeling that the cost of the new solo regulator will be high and in the future when the government start up costs are stopped we will find ourselves paying well in excess of £90 per year. Many single profession regulators charge in the hundreds of pounds. Multi profession regulators offer economy of scale and cheaper registration fees usually. As a regulated profession we will never be able to move away from potentially being subject to fitness to practice processes regardless of who regulates us.

  3. John Smith July 13, 2017 at 6:53 am #

    Fred’s post seems to be more special pleading that social workers are an untouchable group of professionals who should not be subject to any scrutiny by the public or media.

    Many professions publish at least some details of fitness to practice proceedings and have done so for many years.

    Is Fred arguing that professionals should not face the consequences of their actions? I have done voluntary work with people who suffered spinal injuries. I saw people who had lost limbs or were no longer able to walk, due to road accidents. It amazes me that people can try to wave away any incident of drink-driving, given the possible consequences to the person involved and other road users.

    The idea of a strict set of criteria imposed by employers is a non-starter – who would enforce the criteria in the same way across the country? How would the public know if an employee had been found wanting by one employer and what would stop the employee moving to another area? Who would approve education courses and check that employees were keeping their skills up-to-date?