Regulator moots registration of social work students to boost their professional identity

Eight years after student registration in England ceased, Social Work England says it is considering its reintroduction following support from student groups

Photo: Daniel Ernst/Fotolia

Story updated 9 November

Social work students in England may be asked to register with the regulator in future to help support their professional identity and transition into the workforce.

Social Work England said it was considering the move, which would require secondary legislation, on the back of discussions it had had with student groups.

The regulator is mulling the change as part of early thinking on the development of a “whole profession” approach to regulation, which it said it wanted to take forward through discussions with sector partners.

‘Whole profession approach’

Sarah Blackmore, the regulator’s executive director of strategy, policy and engagement, said: “While it is still very early days in our discussions with the sector, we are exploring a future ‘whole profession approach’ to social work regulation, looking at all types of social work and the social work career journey together, rather than as individual parts, to enable us to understand better the problems facing the profession and build on its strengths.

“This journey includes the potential for student registration, which has long been a subject of debate in the profession. From our engagement with student groups and education providers we are hearing that they would welcome student registration in the future, helping students to develop their professional identity and giving a clearer link through to social work employment and professional standards once qualified. This registration would also help make more robust the support given to those making the transition from education into practice – this has long been a challenge but even more so in the current conditions.”

History of student registration

Students must register in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Students were registered in England from 2005-12 under the General Social Care Council (GSCC), when it was not a legal requirement but a condition of courses receiving funding for practice placements. As a result, 95% of students were registered when the GSCC handed over responsibility for social work regulation to the Health and Care Professions Council.

At the time of the handover, in 2012, the GSCC argued that student registration was necessary, particularly for public protection in relation to practice placements.

However, the HCPC did not continue with it, saying its approval and quality assurance processes for higher education institutions (HEIs) were sufficient to ensure standards and public protection were maintained on qualifying programmes. It ran a social work student suitability scheme from 2012-15 to address concerns about people applying to and studying on qualifying programmes, and to support HEIs to transition from the GSCC’s student register, but this received very few cases.

In relation to Social Work England’s wider approach, Blackmore added: “As we develop our whole profession, whole career approach, we are committed to further conversations with the sector and our key partners, with whom we want to consider in much more detail how a whole profession approach might work. To support this, we are commissioning research and gathering data. We will also soon be publishing our first interim ‘Social Work in England’ report, as we start to paint a rich picture of the profession.”

  • Social Work England is looking for social workers and others with an interest in the profession to run virtual workshops, performances and wellbeing activities at its first Social Work Week, from 8-12 March. Expressions of interest need to be sent by 15 November and more information is available on the Social Work England website.

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10 Responses to Regulator moots registration of social work students to boost their professional identity

  1. Giles November 6, 2020 at 9:19 am #

    Student registration will be free of course.

  2. Fog November 6, 2020 at 5:34 pm #

    Personally I would have more confidence in anything SW England did if more of it board members were qualified social workers. Only 2 of the 8 members are at present. Wjen you compare that to the board of the General Medical Council its the other way round.

    Registration of student SWs? I don’t know but what I would like to know is who will pay for the extra administration costs this will entail? Its either the government, students/ their universities or qualified SWs. My concern is that a primary drive for this isn’t really about the students but just another way SW England can being in more money. Call me a skeptic but after 30 years in the profession I am!

  3. Polly November 6, 2020 at 9:22 pm #

    This should have happened right from the start

  4. BERETER ONDU November 7, 2020 at 2:12 pm #

    Iwoukd like to register

  5. Stacy Omondi November 7, 2020 at 8:37 pm #

    Interested how do I go about it

  6. JT November 9, 2020 at 8:21 am #

    Register them sure but also pay them. 170 days unpaid work in this industry needs reward. It is also elitist and means only those who can afford university fees of £27500 plus unpaid work can become social workers…which is massively ironic in a job that’s aim is to end inequality.

    NQSW and students do a vital job but the focus should be on helping people, learning and a smooth transition into work-life using the same values learnt at university.

  7. Mia November 9, 2020 at 5:25 pm #

    I hope any registration process won’t choke the enthusiasm of students. We don’t need another layer of bureaucracy if it just results in justifying the existence of SWE. Perhaps the regulator will surprise us by actually engaging with students in a transparent and meaningful manner.

  8. Nihal November 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm #

    Leave students to organise and empower themselves to think freely, practice ethically, uphold justice and fight racism and discrimination. Don’t shackle them to a regulator which does not and never can act for and on behalf of social workers. Students, you have the power to reshape social work for the better while Social Work England and BASW strive to uphold the power structures of the establishment. Be the free thinkers you are and if forced to join this cabal of authoritarians so you can practice, continue to see justice as your goal and professional ambition. It will not get you an MBE but it will put you on the side that matters.

  9. Precious November 17, 2020 at 9:49 am #

    Nihal, students are there to learn not to turn into politicians. Social work is too political and extreme left wing. I support Social Work England to get us back to helping unfortunate people. We need less Marxism, we need to return to the religious codes and morals that should be at the core of social workers.

  10. Nihal November 19, 2020 at 10:50 am #

    Thanks Precious, always welcome difference. The average social worker wouldn’t know what Marxism is if the great Karl himself was in front of them. Don’t agree you have to be religious to have morals and certainly have less faith in SWE than you seem to. In the end though it’s the politicians that give you your job so food for thought there perhaps.