Story updated 22 December
Social Work England has enabled the almost 5,000 practitioners removed from the register this month to return to practice to bolster sector capacity over Christmas and New Year. The 4,846 practitioners will be added to the temporary register, set up in March under the Coronavirus Act to provide employers with additional practitioners to draw upon to deal with demand spikes and staff depletion during the pandemic.
The regulator had originally planned to temporarily register social workers removed from the main register – after not renewing by the 30 November deadline – in January, at the earliest, excluding those who had not uploaded any CPD to their Social Work England online account, as required for renewal. However, it has now brought the process forward and decided to include those who did not submit CPD in the light of the fast-evolving Covid-19 situation.
A spokesperson said: “The original intention had been to add individuals who left the register to the emergency register in January 2021. The effect of this decision to add them now improves the protection of the public over the Christmas and new year period.
‘A fast-moving picture’
“Throughout this exceptionally challenging year we have all had to respond and adapt with great flexibility to ensure that good social work practice, and our work as a regulator in protecting the public, continues. For us at Social Work England that has meant being responsive to a fast-moving picture to ensure that social work services can be maintained safely and effectively across a multitude of settings.”
The move comes with two-thirds of social workers who responded to a Community Care survey predicting significantly increased pressures this winter than last and the latest spike in Covid-19 cases raising the prospect of significant increases in staff absence, particularly in the south of England.
So far, it appears employer demand for recruits from the temporary register, which automatically includes anyone who left the main register after March 2018, has been low.
Just 32 people, as of 18 December, have been recruited from the temporary register through the national Social Work Together campaign, launched in April and run jointly by the regulator and the Local Government Association (LGA), despite over 1,000 practitioners and 126 of the 151 councils signing up to the campaign. However, some others may have been recruited locally.
- Nearly 1,000 social workers at risk of removal for not uploading CPD with less than two weeks until deadline
- Less than 1,500 social workers left at risk of removal following last-minute registration surge before deadline
- 23 ex-social workers recruited via national campaign from 8,000-strong temporary register
Temporarily registered social workers must comply with Social Work England’s professional standards – besides those relating to CPD – but are not liable for fees or subject to normal fitness to practise procedures. However, if concerns are raised about a practitioner, Social Work England will investigate and can remove the person from the temporary register if it judges their fitness to practise to be impaired.
Restoration to register
Social Work England stressed that anyone removed wanting to practise on an ongoing basis needed to apply to be restored to the main register, rather than rely on the temporary register – which will be scrapped once the government deems it to be no longer necessary.
The regulator’s spokesperson added: “Social workers can continue to practise with a temporary registration status, however temporary registration can be removed at any time and does not give a social worker the same rights as full registration. Any social worker wishing to continue to use the protected title of social worker must ultimately restore to the register or they risk being removed.”
Social Work England confirmed that, as of 17 December, 312 social workers removed for not renewing this year had been restored to the register – at an additional cost of £135 above their £90 registration fee. Those who had not completed CPD as part of renewal were asked to do so as part of their restoration application.
Meanwhile, the regulator has delayed notifying by email the 2.5% of practitioners who will have their CPD validated until 5 January, from the planned date of 22 December, after some practitioners said they would feel worried about it over Christmas if selected.
Those selected will have their CPD examined by a panel of 10 assessors, five of whom are registered social workers. They will look at whether the first piece of CPD submitted by the practitioner is relevant to social work and includes a clear description of the impact on the person’s practice. If the CPD does not meet both criteria, the assessor will look at subsequent CPD submissions to see if any do.
If none does, then the CPD will be examined by a second assessor; if the result is the same, then the practitioner will be given advice on how their CPD could be improved and automatically selected for validation in December 2021 should they apply to renew their registration next year. However, if concerns are raised during the validation process, then the person may be referred for possible removal or fitness to practise procedures.