Social Work England has rejected an 11th hour call from directors and union leaders to extend its 30 November deadline for practitioners to renew their registration, as latest figures show a quarter had not done so with less than five days to go.
Figures released by the regulator show that, as of 9am today, 72,937 social workers had completed their renewal, 74.2% of those who are required to renew if they want to stay on the register.
That left 25,000 social workers are at risk of being unable to practice – at a time of significant pressures on services due to Covid-19 – prompting the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and Social Workers’ Union to call for an extension to the deadline.
However, Social Work England has confirmed that Monday 30 November – at 11.59pm – remains the deadline.
Risk of removal
Those yet to renew fall into two camps. About 15,000 were, as of this morning, yet to complete their renewal application and pay their £90 fee, while 9,664 had done so but not fulfilled their requirement to upload one piece of continuing professional development to their Social Work England accounts.
The regulator said that those in the first group – some of whom will want to leave practice – will be removed on 1 December if they do not complete their application, unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances.
Those in the second group will be written to and given a further 21 days to upload a piece of CPD; if they do not, they will be removed from the register, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Those removed will be unable to practise as social workers and, if they want to return to practice, must apply to be restored to the register, at a cost of £135 over and above the £90 registration fee.
While there is currently a temporary register of former social workers who have left practice since March 2018 but are able to return to the profession to bolster capacity to fight Covid-19, the regulator said this would not be open to those removed because they failed to upload CPD.
No temporary registration for those who fail to upload CPD
“While we have powers under the Coronavirus Act to grant temporary registration, we will not be adding anyone to the temporary register until at least January 2021, said Philip Hallam, executive director of registration, quality assurance, and legal at Social Work England. “This means there will be a period where social workers who failed to renew will be unable to practise unless they apply to restore their registration.
“Social workers who have failed to upload any CPD, and are removed from the register for this reason, will not be considered for temporary registration. It is also important to remember that temporary registration will only remain in place until we are advised that the emergency is over. Once this happens, all temporary registration ends 14 days after the date we are notified.”
Responding to the situation, Association of Directors of Children’s Services workforce development policy committee chair Rachael Wardell said that, while ADCS had issued reminders to social workers to renew their registration and upload CPD, some will have been unable to do so, in the context of the added pressures wrought by Covid, beyond the existing strain on the workforce.
Call for deadline extension
She added: “We anticipate that our peak in referrals to children’s services is yet to come, and when it does this will put added pressure on the workforce. We must avoid a situation where a significant number of social workers become de-registered, particularly during this unprecedented time. We would welcome an extension to the 30 November deadline to allow all social workers to complete the registration process and therefore continue to deliver the essential work that many children and families rely on.”
Her call was echoed by Social Workers Union general secretary John McGowan, who said: “SWU strongly advocates for an extension to the Social Work England registration deadline. Quite simply, social workers have been exceedingly busy over the recent period; with excessive workloads and additional pressures due to Covid, and have had to drastically change working patterns.
“An extension makes sense and can only benefit the profession by reducing the pressures on social workers.”
However, Social Work England chief executive Colum Conway said: “We will not be extending the deadline for registration renewal. We have worked closely with social workers, employers, unions and others across the year to engage professionals in the process of renewing registration and completing at least one piece of CPD.
“Everyone agrees on the need to deliver safe and effective social work practice. It is a real testament to the profession that the vast majority of social workers in England have completed renewal applications and uploaded at least one piece of CPD, despite the very challenging circumstances of the pandemic.”
‘An individual and professional responsibility’
He added: “We know from our research and engagement with the sector that social workers take great pride in their roles and want us to help raise their professional status. Registration and CPD is an individual and professional responsibility to demonstrate to the public and to employers that a social worker remains fit to practise and committed to continuously developing their practice.
“Those with particular circumstances that may prevent them from renewing on time are encouraged to contact us as soon as possible, and can still do so ahead of the deadline, to help us consider and respond to these circumstances.”
More information on the renewal process is available on Social Work England’s website. The regulator is asking practitioners to check the website first for any queries they have before calling or emailing Social Work England.