Social Work England and the Local Government Association (LGA) have today launched an online tool to enable social workers who have recently left the register to return to practice during the coronavirus crisis.
Hosted on the LGA’s existing jobs pages, Social Work Together allows practitioners who deregistered later than 18 March 2018 to complete an expression of interest that can then be used to match their skills to the needs of employers, including local authorities and NHS trusts.
Health services have already taken similar measures to enable retired staff to return to practice.
Today’s move follows the creation last week of an 8,000-strong searchable temporary register of those social workers to have left the profession since 2018, which Social Work England has posted on its site.
The regulator has written to former practitioners confirming their addition to the list. There is no obligation to return to practice, and further information for ex-social workers, including an opt-out form, can be found on its website.
Across England and Wales, local authorities have been redeploying staff to support social care, as well as other essential services, in response to the pandemic.
Many are operating services covering significantly extended hours, and are also expecting staffing levels to drop off as practitioners fall ill or have to self-isolate.
More on the coronavirus crisis
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- Placements closing, online lectures and uncertain futures: Covid-19’s impact on social work students
- Covid-19: Social Work England starts drive to temporarily register up to 8,000 former practitioners
Colum Conway, the chief executive of Social Work England, said: “This is a huge joint effort with all of our partners to get social workers back into practice and to people who need their support, as fast as possible, without compromising standards or safety.
“People who need support in our society are more vulnerable than ever right now,” he added. “I would like to thank all the social workers who have already indicated that they want to come back to work, as well as all those currently practising in extremely challenging circumstances.”
The chairman of the LGA, James Jamieson, said: “Allowing a fast-track way to temporarily return to practice during this difficult time is a much-needed boost for an already over-stretched social care workforce.
He added: “Councils’ absolute priority is protecting the most vulnerable from this coronavirus, and thousands of additional social workers are critical to achieving this.”
The children’s minister, Vicky Ford, said social workers were “unsung heroes” and praised their dedication to supporting children and families during the Covid-19 epidemic.
“The unprecedented challenges we face are putting a strain on our social care system, and I am proud to see how many social workers have come forward already to play a critical role battling this virus – we owe them all a debt of gratitude,” she said.
Meanwhile the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said social workers’ expertise and commitment would play a “vital part” of the country’s collective battle against Covid-19.
“I want to give a huge thank you to all those social workers currently providing essential support to people in exceptionally difficult circumstances,” he said. “It is incredibly humbling to see everybody pulling together to provide outstanding care and support to those that need it.”