Social workers should report barriers to safe practice, new regulator proposes

Draft Social Work England standards also include expectations around using technology and social media ethically

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Social workers will be expected to tell their employers about problems preventing them from practising safely, under draft professional standards published by Social Work England.

The guidelines issued by the new social work regulator, which is due to take over from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) later this year, will ask practitioners to make employers aware of “resourcing or operational difficulties” that prevent them from practising in a safe manner.

Practitioners are also asked to inform their employer or the regulator about anything that might affect their ability to do their job competently and safely, or that affects their fitness to practise.

The draft standards are part of a wider consultation being held by Social Work England, which invites practitioners to submit feedback on several elements of practice regulation and education before 1 May 2019.

Focus on human rights

The standards, which must also be approved by the government, will sit alongside both the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) and the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) for adults and child and family social workers.

There is a strong emphasis on the “rights, interests and well-being of people”, with practitioners asked to promote service users’ independence and advocate the rights of people to “live the life they choose”.

There is also specific attention to the well-being of practitioners, with the standards encouraging professionals to ask for help from their employers if they “do not feel able, or well enough prepared” to carry out their work, or if they are “not sure about how to proceed”.

Updating professional standards for modern life, the draft document asks practitioners not to use technology and social media “unethically” or in a way that “brings the profession into disrepute”. A Social Work England spokesperson explained this point further:

“In the current climate, it is important that social workers are aware of the impact of using social media. An example of unethical use of social media/technology is a social worker connecting or following someone who use services with whom they are working in a professional capacity”.

Self-financing ambition 

Draft registration rules were also published by Social Work England, which announced it would consult on a fee rise before September 2020. The regulator had previously said it “did not anticipate” imposing its own fee increases before 2020.

The decision comes as part of the regulator’s plans to move towards a self-financing model, with the organisation currently part-funded by the government.  In contrast, the HCPC has been funded solely by registration fees – which it was recently criticised for raising by 18%.

Social Work England has proposed a new registration period of 12 months, rather than the current two years, and would collect renewal fees annually. The registration period would run from 1 December each year, with the renewal period starting on 1 September and ending 30 November each year. The first renewal is scheduled for 1 December 2020.

Unlike under the HCPC, there will be no reduction for recent graduates, who would pay the full annual £90 fee, equivalent to the current fee charged by the HCPC.

Picking up the cost

Speaking about the regulator’s plans to move to a self-financing model, British Association of Social Workers chief executive Ruth Allen said: “We expect social workers will be concerned to see that a consultation on fee increases is being trailed and Social Work England is being required to move towards a self-financing basis.

“The burden of moving to a self-financing model should not fall on individual social workers,” Allen added. “We will be seeking members’ views on this, and all aspects of the consultation, and will represent these to Social Work England.”

An online system that will enable social workers to upload their continued professional development (CPD) evidence will be set up by the regulator, which confirmed it would evaluate a sample of practitioners’ CPD annually at the point of registration renewal.

“We will be creating an online system for our registrants where they can undertake a range of activities including renewing their registration, updating their personal details, and recording the CPD they undertake.

“We would expect that this will allow registered social workers to be able to upload their CPD activity regularly, in advance of the annual renewal period,” a Social Work England spokesperson said.

Consultation on fitness to practise rules

Social Work England has also launched a consultation on fitness to practise rules, asking practitioners to comment on how the regulator will handle concerns raised about social workers.

Social Work England will consult practitioners on fitness to practise requirements already set out in The Social Workers Regulations 2018. This includes a “transparent approach to investigation”, which promotes engagement with social workers, and “intelligence-led learning and evidence-based enhancement initiatives”.

Under the proposed rules, new regional engagement leads will be appointed to “raise awareness and ensure the consistent implementation of standards”. These will be registered and practising social workers, who will work with a range of stakeholders, including employers, people with lived experience of social work, and training providers.

The consultation is open until 5pm on Wednesday 1 May 2019. You can respond to the consultation via the Social Work England online surveys here or email at

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One Response to Social workers should report barriers to safe practice, new regulator proposes

  1. Anonymous March 4, 2019 at 6:49 am #

    I love the fact that I have to pay for the privilege of going to work, and work to an organisations ideologies that dictate how I have to work. Now I am also responsible for reporting concerns about high caseloads, with no power to change it. It will ultimately go ignored by employers, and when something goes wrong I will have to end my career that I paid £27k for. It’s no wonder there’s a recruitment and retention problem in social work.

    And I can’t even moan about it on social media…