Just over one in five social workers have logged onto their Social Work England account on which they will be expected to log their continuing professional development (CPD).
The new regulator said that 21,052 of England’s, 98,000 social workers had activated their accounts since the organisation took over responsibility for the profession from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) on 2 December.
As well as being the place where practitioners must record their CPD, their accounts will enable social workers to view their registration details, update their personal information and communicate securely with Social Work England.lrs
At the regulator’s board meeting last Friday, head of registration Rachel McAssey said she was very happy with 20% of the workforce having created their accounts by the end of week two.
All practitioners will have to have activated their accounts and registered at least one piece of CPD to ensure re-registration by 30 November 2020, the end of the new one-year registration period.
However, while this is the absolute deadline for registering a single piece of CPD on their accounts, Social Work England expects practitioners to record their learning routinely on their accounts meaning they will be expected to logon well before this.
A spokesperson for Social Work England said: “We continue to roll out communications to social workers to introduce ourselves and remind them to set up their online account… Social workers will need to set up their online account in order to start to log their CPD and we require evidence of CPD by 30 November 2020.”
The board meeting also heard that the transfer of data from the HCPC had happened smoothly and successfully.
All social workers have now received communications from the regulator; however, a small number of emails have bounced back and the practitioners concerned are receiving letters.
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The regulator received 2630 calls in the first two weeks after the transition; on 16 December, the average wait time for calls was just over three minutes. The most common queries have been in relation to registration, including new applications and requests to rejoin the register.
The Social Work England spokesperson added: “We would like to reassure people that all applications to join the register have been safely transferred and a case officer will be in touch as soon as possible.”
Fitness to practise caseloads
At the board meeting, executive director of fitness to practise Jonathan Dillon reported that on transfer day, Social Work England received 1499 active investigations from the HCPC. Of these, 209 had already been referred to a hearing by an HCPC investigating committee panel (ICP), while the other 1290 were at the pre-ICP stage.
An additional 77 cases were under review, meaning the registrant has been sanctioned, but the sanctions were reviewable, for example, in cases of suspension from the register.
Social Work England has also received 112 new fitness to practise referrals since the HCPC froze its system on 22 November
The new regulator has employed 63 people in the fitness to practise department in various roles, including investigators, case examiners, support officers and legal advisors. Dillon told the board meeting that each investigator was currently carrying an average of 64 cases. The department is aiming for an average of 50 cases per investigator by April.
Rising number of concerns against social workers
As part of this, Social Work England is aiming to reduce the number of cases and hearings, including by preventing concerns being raised and by dealing with them swiftly by screening out cases that do not merit investigation and concluding cases without a hearing with the social worker’s consent.
The challenge facing Social Work England in this area was set out by the HCPC’s annual fitness to practise report, which revealed that the number of concerns raised about social workers rose by 15% last year, from 1,174 in 2017-18 to 1,345 in 2018-19. This meant social workers, who accounted for one in four people registered with the HCPC, were the subject of 55% of fitness to practise concerns in relation to its then 16 professions. The majority of these concerns came from members of the public (56%).
However, most cases concerning social workers, 60%, up from 54% in 2017-18, were rejected by the HCPC before being considered by an investigating committee panel because they did not meet the threshold for investigation.
Regional engagement leads
One of the major changes Social Work England has implemented is the introduction of eight regional engagement leads, overseen by a head of strategic engagement. Their role is to work with employers and educational institutions to ensure they implement Social Work England’s standards, identify performance issues in their region and support improvement, including to prevent the need for fitness to practise cases.
Social Work England has six regional leads in place, as well as the team head, but has not yet hired regional engagement leads for London or the East of England.
At the board meeting, Sarah Blackmore, executive director of strategy, policy and engagement for Social Work England, said strong applications had been received for the remaining two posts and interviews would take place at the end of December.
What’s next for the new regulator?
The Social Work England spokesperson said the focus would now turn to the delivery of the corporate strategy, which will be published shortly. The three-year strategy will focus on five key areas of activity: their regulatory approach, the social work profession, engaging and collaborating with everyone who has an interest in social work, education and training, and continuing to grow and develop the organisation.
Social Work England will also establish a national advisory forum made up of representatives from across the sector, as well as experts by experience. Underneath this will sit two separate advisory groups focused on standards, and education and training. The regulator will be contacting people in due course with more information about these groups.
- If you were previously registered with HCPC and would like to set up your online account with Social Work England and update your personal details, you can do so by visiting the ‘My account’ login page and clicking ‘Create password’ under the ‘Transferring from HCPC?’ button.