How Social Work England responds to criticisms of CPD recording

After we reported on how few social workers had recorded CPD on their Social Work England accounts, several practitioners commented to question the purpose and process of doing so. Here's the regulator's response

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By Sarah Blackmore and Philip Hallam, Social Work England 

Following the recent Community Care article ‘Social Work England: 18% of social workers have recorded CPD, four months out from deadline’, a number of comments and questions were posted by social workers about recording continuing professional development.

In this article, we have responded to the most frequent comments made.

On why social workers are having to record CPD at an unprecedented and busy time

To meet the requirements to renew registration as set out in our legislation, social workers are required to record at least one piece of CPD in their online account before 30 November 2020, and many social workers have already done so.

We understand, however, that as social workers you are responding to Covid-19 amid extra work pressures, concerns for personal health and wellbeing, and family commitments and caring responsibilities. We thank you for all you are doing in challenging circumstances with the skill and flexibility that is so typical of our profession.

You are navigating your way through the pandemic whilst having to consider the ethics and impact of new ways of working for the longer term. This presents a real opportunity to reflect, consider and record individual experiences through CPD. It is a way of reflecting on difficult times for the benefit of social work practice and the millions of people who need social workers’ support.

Prior to Covid-19, there was a steady flow of social workers recording CPD. We are now starting to see the number of social workers recording CPD return to the levels we saw before the outbreak of Covid-19, and we encourage all social workers to regularly record CPD throughout the year.

On the challenges social workers have reported with the website’s user-friendliness and in using their Social Work England online account

The majority of social workers who record CPD in their online account do so without difficulty, however, we are aware that some people are having problems recording CPD in their online account. If you are having issues with our website, or the online account is not working as expected, it may be related to the browser you are using or your browser settings.

Following the steps in our website support section and reading through our online account guide should help you solve any technical problems. The steps on how to record CPD are also highlighted on the ‘how to record CPD’ section of our website.

Following feedback from social workers about their experience using the online account, in August we will be adding the ability to save a draft CPD record, which will remove the risk of timing out after 60 minutes and losing work. Further improvements will also be introduced to provide more on-screen advice and to reduce the chance of loading or crash errors.

On the need for further guidance on recording CPD

To support social workers to understand our requirements around CPD and familiarise themselves with their online account, our regional engagement leads have produced some top tips which can be viewed on our website.

A series of free online sessions for social workers are also scheduled over the summer to help social workers understand how to prepare and record CPD. These are currently in high demand, but we are in the process of adding additional dates so please keep checking our website.

Social workers can also reach out to their local regional engagement lead to set up bespoke sessions for their employers.

On the risk of social workers being removed from the register if they do not record CPD before 30 November

Working with social workers, employers and others with an interest in social work, we’ve developed a new approach to CPD that emphasises personal reflection and the impact that learning has on practice, in order to meet the requirements of our legislation. By undertaking and recording CPD, you demonstrate to us and the public that you uphold the professional standards of the social work profession and continue to remain fit to practise.

We will continue to develop our approach to CPD as we understand more about the ways that social workers are learning.

On response times to enquiries made via phone or email

We are currently experiencing a high volume of enquiries and appreciate that some of you may have had to wait longer than normal. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We are replying to all enquiries as soon as possible and are currently recruiting for some additional temporary staff to help us improve response times during this period.

In the meantime, we have improved our website support section and developed an online account guide to give social workers advice on how to troubleshoot some of the most frequent queries.

On whether Social Work England checks and validated submitted CPD

At the point of renewal, we’ll check that all social workers have recorded at least one piece of CPD in their online account. In addition to this, and for us to learn from our first year’s CPD requirements, we will carry out a validation check.

The validation check will see us randomly select 2.5% of social workers. We will let the social workers who have been selected for validation know, and we will look at their records and check whether their CPD is relevant to their social work practice. Once we have completed the validation, we will let those social workers selected for validation know the outcome. Further information can be found in our CPD guidance.

We will also use anonymised CPD data to produce a report that summarises the outcomes of the validation process. We hope this report will inform the public and the profession about how social workers are learning, as well as inform our ongoing approach to CPD.

Sarah Blackmore is executive director of policy, strategy and engagement, and Philip Hallam, executive director of registration, quality assurance and legal, at Social Work England 

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31 Responses to How Social Work England responds to criticisms of CPD recording

  1. One SW July 23, 2020 at 9:14 am #

    I think that given the current pressures and changes to policy due to Covid-19 SWE should leave the CPD until a later date, most SW I know myself included are working very hard to do the actual job of safeguarding children and young people, SW workers becoming further stressed and pressured is not going to help in doing the job.

    • Edelin July 23, 2020 at 2:15 pm #

      You are right as social workers we already have too high caseloads and with no time to work on these and no family time. Some have to work weekends to complete court reports and CP visits and having to complete CPD I myself I am finding this to be insensitive to what we are being exposed to. And to our own emotional needs. The jobs comes with its own stress and having to worry about CPD is another added stress. If CPD was to be every 2 to 3 years this would be reasonable

  2. Fog July 23, 2020 at 10:08 am #

    Its not just the CLD section that is unfriendly – the whole sW england website Is unfriendly. For example in the section ‘About You’ there is no facility to simply view what info your account has about you – you have to use the update your information section which takes you through a laborious path of separate rooms – each being blocked until you upload evidence – even if you don’t make any changes. I haven’t got past the first room which includes a question on my nationality which is blank and even if I leave this unanswered it won’t let me progress. As a SW whose details came over from HCPC it is bizarre that SW England even feel the need to not only want to know my nationality but also require me to prove it. I haven’t got a clue what other information about me is right or wrong because frankly I have just taken the view that its too much effort to check.

    When SWs have to pay for the Privilege of being registered you’d expect the orgaNisation handling this to be more considerate of us and our time but instead they add to the administrative burden. I suspect most of those working for SW England aren’t SWs and probably don’t have much of a clue what we do. In my opinion they are just another bureaucracy making our jobs harder.

  3. A Man Called Horse July 23, 2020 at 11:01 am #

    It is utterly unacceptable to ask Social Workers this year to submit work under threat of deregistration if they do not comply with requirements. It shows that Social Work England has an exceptional lack of understanding of the stress that people like me a front line Social Worker with Adults and working in a hospital have been experiencing. Social Work England can only be described as a bullying organisation who have no interest in the welfare and health of the staff doing the job. I have feared for my life and continue to fear I may become another dead social worker added to the list of at least 21 at the last count. I have felt mentally fatigued and physically unwell and have continued throughout the pandemic to do my duty. I may now consider leaving the profession next year after 26 years of service. The enforcement of CPD as an additional burden this year is almost beyond belief, it has left me feeling anxious and stressed that I will be forced out of my job by Social Work England. We have no representation as a profession and we can simply be abused at will be SWE. Your organisation is effectively abusing its power over social workers and you know full well that we are under your absolute power. it will be interesting to see how many Social Workers are effectively sacked from their jobs at the end of this year by not being able to meet CPD requirements. I suspect the number could be large as many are being burned out in their jobs presently. Social Work England urgently needs to reconsider its position take my money and suspend CPD requirements until next year. That would be both sensible and fair and would recognise the exceptional stresses we currently face as front line professionals. I am not sure I will be able to comply with your demands effectively ending a 26 six year career as a Social Worker. Your organisation should feel ashamed of what you are doing.

  4. A senior social work professional July 23, 2020 at 3:55 pm #

    I work in a busy team as an assistant team manager, best interest assessor and approved mental health professional. I find it almost unbelievable that a registered social worker cannot take at least one hour out of their time between now and November to upload one piece of continuing professional development. In between balancing work and home life, I have managed to upload 4 separate pieces of CPD. I also take it my personal responsibility to ensure that I am keeping myself regularly up today and as a result will aim to upload not less than 6 pieces a year which I think is is the minimum what a social worker should have to provide in order to stay competent in their practice. I feel so strongly about this I would generally challenge anyone come November if they have not been able to complete one piece of of reflection and upload this. I am aware that some local authorities give social workers CPD hours every month and if you’re unfortunate to not work for an authority t it should be the minimum you do in your own time in order to maintain your registration. Rant over.

    • Mother July 23, 2020 at 8:39 pm #

      What is the evidence you have uploaded that tells me as a carer for a son with schizophrenia that you are a competent AMHP? I suggest that your self defined subjective learning and reflection may not be of any relevance to our lives. Rant over.

      • An AMHP July 24, 2020 at 9:06 am #

        Hello there,

        A very good point. I will try and help.

        AMHPs must maintain their own professional status (nurse, psychologist, OT or social worker) plus not less than 18 hours a year AMHP specific CPD in addition. They are warranted for up to 5 years and have to be re warranted (interviewed) every 5 years to maintain their status.

        Before a person becomes an AMHP, they normally have at least 2 or 3 years post qualifying experience (in addition to a degree of 2 or 3 years). So AMHPs come to the role with at least 4 or 5 years of training. They have separate AMHP reflection and supervision and most are senior professionals in their own right, i.e. senior social worker, senior staff nurse, senior OT / MH practitioner or chartered psychologist. As part of AMHP training, most universities have a unit on ethics, decision making and this normally involved sessions led by users / experts by experience (mine had two).

        We have to follow the law and Code of Practice and where we do not, we should account for this. We are always learning and if AMHPs do not remain competent, they can have their warrant removed. You’re right to ask how our CPD impacts your life, as this is something that should always be discussed in any assessment and on our CPD, we should (as far as possible) see the holistic picture. We can never truly experience what you or your son is going through; we are all different and unique and try to understand the wider picture. We should always treat you with respect, kindness and compassion.

        I hope that helps and all the best.

        Yours
        An AMHP

    • Fog July 23, 2020 at 9:55 pm #

      The issue in my opinion is that SW England could have made their website more friendlier for SWs. I logged on in January and like you have added 8 separate CPDs Try checking you personal information and see what a mess SW England have made In the design of their website. I am personally not against Putting info on And evidencing development but I do expect SW England to be user friendly and currently they aren’t in my opinion.

    • Misty July 24, 2020 at 12:18 am #

      As an assistant manager, I would expect less judgement and more support from some one in your position.

      You do not know what other people’s roles consist of, what additional pressures, be it family or otherwise that they are dealing with.

      That’s great, that you have been able to do that but please don’t make others feel like they are any less of a professional because for whatever reason they cannot “spare an hour” to submit evidence for their CPD, when so many SW’s don’t even have a hour to spend on themselves or family etc

    • Kate July 24, 2020 at 9:15 am #

      I am pleased you have been able to upload so many pieces of evidence however perhaps have some thought for those who are struggling. I get no time allocated in work for this, I last had supervision around a year ago, my last piece of training was last year and was basically an overview of changes to procedures, I, like most others, work over contracted hours and have been under even greater stress with Covid! I viewed SWE’s statement that Covid was a good opportunity to reflect as being a great example of how they have no idea of the stresses SW staff have been under!
      My free time is precious- as it is for many others, and vital to our wellbeing. However I have to use this to try to get something together. The HCPC requirements were much more user friendly and less onerous, whilst still proving competency. This new system has given us yet more hoops to jump through!

      Rant over!

    • Paul SP July 24, 2020 at 7:46 pm #

      I like your passion for your chosen career although you do come over quite smug. I have to say that you are in a very priveleged position to have time for CPD! I would love to have time to sit down and record a reflective piece some time. I’m sitting here every evening until 7.30pm desparately trying to keep afloat with paperwork. I work in an acute hospital setting. Many of my colleagues are on the emotional brink right now and poised to go off sick/ are off sick. I’m talking great experienced, passionate social workers like you. It is all very sad, I would say character building but then psychological/ institutional abuse should not be something to celebrate. I take it as my responsibility as a senior practitioner to support them not to go under because of the intense scrutiny and unbearable pressure we are under. I agreed, CPD should be a essential part of building practice, developing confidence etc. When you have to focus on personal mental and physical survival within the chaos and upheaval of a system already broken and dysfunctional you tend to question why you carry on taking that abuse? PriorIties become very different then. So please “senior social work professional” I ask, do you understand or experiences these pressures? If not, you are in no position to criticise or judge others for not meeting your standards.

    • PSW July 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm #

      I absolutely agree- we are all busy but to record just one piece of evidence about how your learning has impacted upon your practice is not a huge ask! Now more than ever social workers should be reflecting on their practice and the importance of their continued professional development.

    • Karen July 31, 2020 at 6:56 pm #

      How thoughtful, you sound like the managers at our work that expect people to have no life or responsibilities outside if work. Rant over

    • Your Arsenal August 7, 2020 at 2:46 pm #

      Shouldn’t SWE be paying us for completing the CPD? What a scam.

  5. Choma July 23, 2020 at 4:35 pm #

    Is this another bullying organisation? SWE behaviour is disturbingly mysterious.
    Following their response towards the email I sent to them to request support for my online recording as the online system was failing me, I am still struggling to upload my reflection and the error message I have been getting continue’s
    I want to speak out clearly, SWE online system is not user friendly, I have tried all that they have asked me to do as to ensure that my computer is compatible, the message it brings up confirms that my computer is fine. What other options of sending in recorded work have they provided other than threatening to unregister workers.
    SWE response today seems to me that we social workers again remain invisible, we are again left behind in an abandoned cellar, who is listening and representing us? SWE should be ashamed of the further stress levelled on hard working social workers who genuinely deserve to be valued and supported at this difficult time

  6. Dibs July 23, 2020 at 6:46 pm #

    To portray the current crisis in social work and society as presenting overworked and under stress workers with an opportunity (you lucky people) to do more work is disgraceful. Sadly not surprised at all by our current regulator. Maybe they could see this as an opportunity to design a functioning website…

  7. Uz July 23, 2020 at 8:57 pm #

    I will like social work England to also address the issue that affects the newly qualified social worker. Newly qualified finds it difficult to get a place for their ASYE there are loads of social works available but you must have to have completed your ASYE.

    There are less places for ASYE for the Newly qualified, which leave them vulnerable after spending time to study. There are many newly qualified who haven’t got a job how can they fill out the CPD.

  8. julia July 23, 2020 at 10:23 pm #

    What is the purpose of SWE? It certainly does not appear to be an advocate and supporter of the people on the front line. I resent having to pay to support another layer of unnecessary bureaucrats.
    I feel it should be up to the employing Local Authority to monitor the CPD of its SWs not another ineffective persecutory set up.

    • Rk July 24, 2020 at 11:23 am #

      Totally agree 👍. Why, are we required to evidence yearly when other HCP don’t?. Seems like SWE exist to exclude not develop SW.

  9. Confrontational Retribution July 23, 2020 at 10:51 pm #

    #SocialWorkerStrike

    Nonsensical what is the need

    So we dont get appreciated during this whole Covid-19 epidemic

    No raises
    But not only are SW doing overtime for without pay, you want me to do what?

  10. John Blackburn July 24, 2020 at 9:48 am #

    Dear A Senior Social Work Professional, are you seriously saying that colleagues and users of services should be reassured that by dint of uploading a story, because a subjective narrative which cannot be measured against a set of verifiable standards is your own alone, makes a social worker safe and competent? You must surely recognise the difference between the rigour of your BIA and AMHP training and what SWE are expecting you to demonstrate to remain on their register. Its not the time it takes or the problems of the online system that frustrates me, it’s as Mother has asked, how is SWE helping you/us to be better at providing quality to her and her son.

  11. Andy July 24, 2020 at 10:21 am #

    A genuine and sincere question for SWE. I have reflected and learnt a lot practising during Covid19. I learnt that as a gay man of colour, I have been expected to carry on travelling to my team base and to have face to face contact when colleagues with teen age young adults without any vulnerabilities were not and nor were their partners expected to share “childcare”. I have learnt to navigate online sellers to purchase my own PPE when I no doubt profligately run out of my allocated ‘share’. I have learnt that there is a hierarchy of life value and if you are a childless gay man or your dependent is older, you are at the expendable end of the risk assessment. I have reflected that getting a universal e-mail not akin to yours, thanking me for my hard work and dedication from managers safely “working from home to test new technology” does not compensate for the disturbed sleep, anxiety, fear, crying, rage and loss of confidence. You will get the drift of my learning and reflections. If I was to format this and upload, would it pass your expected standards and count as my CPD to ensure registration? Thank you.

  12. Gina July 24, 2020 at 5:19 pm #

    Have SWE commented yet about the 21 Social Workers who lost their life to COVID ? Due to negligence of this government and PPE? My colleagues are at breaking point , no time to switch off from the stress levels in complex case work.
    Every time I’ve tried to use your website there has been a problem. Why have you made a website that times out and loses work we’ve inputted ? During Covid we’ve all had to read and learn new policy daily, lost our desk space , lost our team support , had to run from crisis to crisis risking our lives. All front line workers should have a reprieve- have you developed an App yet ? It would be easier to record things and expand on the information at a later date

    • Anonymous July 30, 2020 at 6:11 am #

      Agree

  13. Mother July 24, 2020 at 6:11 pm #

    Dear An AMHP, informative response to a question I didn’t ask but thank you. What I want to know is how what SWE is asking social workers to upload is going to improve your practice in the way that A senior mental health professional says it will. I wanted to know an example of this perhaps in the way that you have evidenced for AMPH training. I am not a social worker but I want to know that the next social worker, and there always is a next social worker, given to us will be competent and motivated and has been validated through a process that is properly evidence based. Many contributors here seem not to have confidence in the CPD process and that worries me. Many of you want to feel pride in your roles but appear to be ground down by demands you see no value in. That saddens me.

  14. Debbie July 25, 2020 at 3:48 pm #

    I am a social worker of 19 years but, 4 years ago relocated and decided to leave frontline social work and just become an independent Form F Assessor. This work is not constant and I obviously only get paid for completed assessments after 3-4 months. I have done this to attempt to get some balance in my life. I have completed a couple of 3 month contracts but, within weeks, the old feelings of drowning cane back and I have completed the contract and left. I have to try to find my own training which is very difficult and costs £100s which I don’t have. I have been doing online free courses re safeguarding, coaching and mentoring in the hope that these will count as CPD.

  15. janet July 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm #

    As a retired social worker, I trained to become a Practice Educator for a local social work charity.
    I have had, over the years 6 social work students from various universities on placement, plus I was asked to help support some international students for ad hoc sessions.

    The SWE website is difficult to use and not completely user friendly. I have emailed a couple of times asking the guidelines for social workers in my position i.e. retired and providing a maximum of 10 hours practice education per week for a period of 6 months at a time (length of placements) but have never had a reply.

    Although I now have not taught for the last academic year, my registration fee was taken from my bank account and when I tried to telephone SWE about this was informed that due to Covid, they could not answer my call.

    I am also the Safeguarding Officer for another small charity advising on policies and procedures.

  16. Nora July 27, 2020 at 11:58 pm #

    As a social worker – who qualified abroad I managed to fulfill the requirements to be registered with SWE. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of my time and also a lot of money. I applied for a lot of social work jobs even social work assistant ones and the answer was the same : “You did not practice within the UK …”I didn’t give up. I contacted SWE if there is any training or placement opportunity. The responce from SWE was to contact BASW. By the way I’m their member and their response was to contact SWE. What should I say. There is no support for newly qualified SW or SW who wish to return back to SW. And the CPD? In my case no point to waste my time and money.

  17. Suzannah Rockett July 28, 2020 at 10:00 am #

    I know this is a really stressful time for all of us as social workers, and have read the above comments and think this is a fair reflection of how many people are feeling.

    At the same time, I only think it is fair to also say that Ahmina Akhtar from Social Work England has been so very helpful and approachable in trying to address any issues we have in Barnsley in recording our CPD.

    I think what SWE expect in comparison to the HCPC is more realistic during Covid, as were are being asked to submit one piece of CPD this year, which most of can do, and once it is done, then its done and dusted.

  18. Anonymous July 30, 2020 at 6:20 am #

    This just shows To me how many didn’t record and CPD before under HCPC as they were supposed to.

    However, the SWE website is rubbish, I made an attempt at the beggining. It wasn’t user friendly, it wasn’t self explanatory and I couldn’t write my reflection in the style I wanted. At which point I logged off and have not logged back on again. I Constantly do CPD, but I don’t naturally record my reflection on it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t reflect. I will record something before November because I have to.

  19. Anonymous August 3, 2020 at 6:49 am #

    Why do online sessions and not just record a webinar that everyone can watch and the rewatch as they need to?