The new social work regulator will have powers to charge training providers for the approval of courses and launch fitness to practise inquiries based on English language proficiency, a government consultation has said.
The consultation document on Social Work England, published today, sets out draft regulations for how Social Work England will operate once it is launched in 2019.
It said: “Some regulators of other professions, including the General Pharmaceutical Council, charge for the approval of courses. Social Work England will have powers to do so, subject to the requirements to obtain approval from the Secretary of State and consult in line with the 2017 Act.”
The Health and Care Professions’ Council (HCPC) does not charge training providers registration fees, and has “no explicit powers” to do so, although a discussion was had by the current regulator last November.
It was revealed in December that the cost of setting up the regulator could be between £22 million and £26 million, and it would have an estimated £12 million-a-year running cost once established.
Other proposals contained in the document include transferring the criteria for both Best Interest Assessors and Approved Mental Health Professional to the new regulator. The regulator would both set the criteria for training courses for these roles and be responsible for approving them.
Social workers would be able to get “conditional registration” under the new regulator, allowing them to practice subject to certain conditions, such as restrictions to the work they can undertake or health-related requirements.
A necessary knowledge of English would become a condition of registration for applicants with qualifications from the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as those with UK and international qualifications. Currently only applicants outside of a Relevant European State (the EEA and Switzerland) have to prove language proficiency.
“Lack of English language proficiency will also be a basis of a fitness to practise inquiry. We anticipate that Social Work England will take a phased approach to applying this registration condition to existing registrants.”
The government also wants to give the regulator the power to require information from education providers “at any time”, not just at the point of approval, re-approval or monitoring.
“This will ensure that the regulator is able to make full use of evidence and data to identify, act on and resolve emerging issues quickly and efficiently,” the consultation said. It will also give the new regulator the power to appoint “inspectors” to act as part of the approval process for education courses.
The regulations also give the secretary of state for education default powers to take over functions where the regulator fails to comply with a remedial direction following failure to perform its duties.
“We are proposing that, for certain rules, oversight of Social Work England’s rulemaking procedure may be necessary. For example, this might be appropriate in instances where there are requirements (rather than powers) for Social Work England to make rules, or for rules relating to the core regulatory functions: fitness to practise, registration and education and training,” the consultation added.
The consultation was launched by the minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi, who posted a statement on Twitter:
Today we've published a consultation on the legal framework for Social Work England. Hear more from Minister for Children and Families, @nadhimzahawi on this, and our priorities for Children’s Social Care: https://t.co/7x79Y01QO7 pic.twitter.com/Ba0pT6HDxk
— DfE (@educationgovuk) February 8, 2018
The creation of Social Work England was proposed in 2016. The government is currently running an application process for the chair and chief executive of the new regulator, which it does not expect to launch until 2019.
The new regulator will be accountable to the Departments of Health and Social Care, and Education, rather than to parliament like the current regulator, the HCPC.