Social Work England has launched a drive to bring up to 8,000 former practitioners back into the profession to deal with the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on the workforce.
It is setting up a temporary register to ensure local authorities and other employers can continue to deliver services by bringing extra capacity into the profession to counter staff absence as a result of self-isolation or increased sickness.
The emergency Coronavirus Bill, published today, enables the creation of the temporary register in England and an equivalent list in Wales.
Fit, proper and suitably qualified
The bill would allow the regulator to create the temporary register in the event of an emergency – as defined by the government – enabling it to register individual social workers, or groups of practitioners, if Social Work England considers them “fit, proper and suitably experienced”.
This is, in effect, a lower threshold for registration than the standard requirements to join the registration defined by the Social Work Regulations 2018. These are that the person:
- has qualified within the previous five years or, if not, has met specified training requirements if they are returning to the register;
- is capable of safe and effective practice in line with professional standards;
- has the necessary knowledge of English;
- has not been convicted of a specified offence.
Practitioners on the temporary register will also not be subject to registration fees or requirements to complete continuing professional development.
However, Social Work England will be able to revoke the person’s temporary registration at any time, including if it suspected the person’s fitness to practise is impaired.
Local employer demand
The temporary register will last as long as the emergency. Once on the temporary register social workers will be approached by local employers if their services are needed.
“Social workers protect millions of people every day and are more important than ever as society faces unprecedented upheaval during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Social Work England.
“In the coming days we will contact 8,000 former social workers and set up a temporary register to make sure people across England continue to receive the best possible support when they need it most.”
The Coronavirus Bill also provides for a similar temporary register in Wales, through an amendment to the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2016.
The news came as Welsh regulator Social Care Wales announced a number of measures designed to reduce pressures on the workforce and maintain capacity during the coronavirus emergency. These include:
- only removing people from the register if they ask for it or if it believes there is a risk to the public;
- postponing fitness to practise final hearings where it is safe to do so.
However, chief executive Sue Evans said Social Care Wales’s response to enquiries, including about registration, would be slower as a result of the crisis.