Social Work England has confirmed changes to how practitioners must record their continuing professional development (CPD) as it takes over regulation of the profession today.
As set out in consultative plans issued in August, the new regulator will require all social workers to record at least some CPD in new online accounts at the point of renewal next year, under the system of annual registration that Social Work England has brought in.
Social workers will not be able to defer their CPD during the registration period – 2 December 2019 to 30 November 2020. The regulator will give practitioners who do not submit any CPD during the registration period a further 21 days to record some. If this does not happen, it will take action ranging from placing a condition on the practitioner’s registration requiring them to provide CPD evidence by a set date or, as a last resort, removing them from the register.
More on the change of regulator
The regulator said it would communicate regularly with practitioners during the year and send reminders about completing CPD requirements before the first renewal period opens, on 1 September 2020. If personal circumstances mean that a person is unable to record a piece of evidence during the year, Social Work England said they should contact the regulator to discuss options for maintaining their registration.
Shift from HCPC approach
Social Work England’s approach marks a shift from that undertaken by outgoing regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), under which practitioners were required to meet CPD standards but, in the vast majority of cases, simply had to declare that they had done so, at the point of renewal. Only the 2.5% selected at random for audit had to submit a written profile to demonstrate how they had met the CPD standards.
However, though practitioners will be required to meet Social Work England’s eight CPD standards (see box, below) they will not be judged on the quality of their CPD.
Instead, the regulator will check whether the CPD recorded shows how the learning impacted on the registrant’s practice. As under HCPC, practitioners must declare that they have met the standards, with the same percentage of registrants selected as now at random to have their CPD assessed.
This group will not be asked to provide any additional CPD but will instead have the entries they record in their account during the registration year examined, resulting in their CPD being ‘accepted’ or requiring ‘further assessment’. Those in the second category will need to provide further information on their submitted evidence and potentially face conditions on their registration, or even removal, if they are deemed not to have met the registration standard.
Within the online account, social workers will have two options for recording their CPD, a structured and an unstructured form. Both ask the registrants to provide information on what they did, a reflection on how it has impacted on their practice and which of the CPD standards they feel that the learning has met; but the structured form provides questions to guide registrants through the process. Anyone who feels they would not be able to submit their CPD online should get in touch with Social Work England.
- Incorporate feedback from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice.
- Use supervision and feedback to critically reflect on, and identify my learning needs, including how I use research and evidence to inform my practice.
- Keep my practice up to date and record how I use research, theories and frameworks to inform my practice and my professional judgment.
- Demonstrate good subject knowledge on key aspects of social work practice and develop knowledge of current issues in society and social policies impacting on social work.
- Contribute to an open and creative learning culture in the workplace to discuss, reflect on and share best practice.
- Reflect on my learning activities and evidence what impact continuing professional development has on the quality of my practice.
- Record my learning and reflection on a regular basis and in accordance with Social Work England’s guidance on continuing professional development.
- Reflect on my own values and challenge the impact they have on my practice.
Responding to feedback
Social Work England has changed the language around its CPD requirements after receiving concerns during the consultation that its requirement for registrants to record “at least one piece of evidence” may be misinterpreted as only having to record one piece. The finalised guidance instead refers to Social Work England checking at the point of renewal whether registrants have “recorded any CPD during the preceding registration year”.
The regulator said it wanted to encourage registrants to “regularly record their learning throughout the year”.
It has also changed the wording concerning the process undergone by the 2.5% of registrants whose CPD will be looked at in detail, from ‘evaluation’ to ‘validation’. It was referred to as ‘audit’ by the HCPC.
Calls for better employer support
Social workers who responded to the consultation raised the issue of having the time, support and opportunity to undertake CPD. Social Work England said it was asking employers to “familiarise themselves with the regulatory CPD requirements for social workers”.
Employers were also encouraged to “foster a learning culture where social workers are supported to carry out their CPD duties by allowing them adequate time and opportunities to do so”.
In its consultation response, Social Work England said it was important to acknowledge that CPD includes a range of activities and does not just involve social workers attending training courses.
“We will not give direction or advice on what CPD a social worker should undertake, but we do encourage social workers to think creatively about learning opportunities and the learning they’re already doing in their role,” the regulator said.