Story updated 24 May
Social Work England has proposed doubling the annual requirement for recording continuing professional development (CPD) for practitioners seeking to renew their registration.
The proposal – included in a consultation on reforming CPD for the December 2021 to December 2022 registration year – comes despite research for the regulator finding that 60% of practitioners lacked time during working hours for learning and development.
In addition, Social Work England faced significant challenges in ensuring practitioners submited one piece of CPD during its first registration renewal period last year, with only a last-minute rush preventing large numbers of social workers being removed for non-submission. The requirement for the current (2020-21) registration year remains the submission of one piece of CPD to social workers’ online accounts with the regulator.
The consultative proposals are based on workshops carried out with social workers and research by YouGov on practitioners’ attitudes to CPD, also published yesterday.
Support for ‘small increase’ in CPD requirement
The regulator said the workshops uncovered support for a “small increase in the amount of CPD required”.
While one piece would be at the social worker’s discretion, the second would be on a broad theme determined by Social Work England – for example, improving communication, understanding legislation or having a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. This responds to feedback that social workers wanted more direction on the CPD they submit.
Its other proposed reforms include:
- Replacing the current structured and unstructured online forms for recording CPD with a single, shortened form, in response to feedback that social workers wanted a simplified way of recording their CPD.
- Requiring social workers to confirm they have spoken with a manager or peer about how the piece of CPD has impacted on their learning, following feedback that practitioners should engage in peer discussions of their CPD.
- Changing the way that a fraction (2.5%) of social workers have their CPD validated, moving from purely random sampling of the whole register to random sampling of particular groups of practitioners, for example those in a particular region or of a particular level of experience. This would be to enable the regulator to respond to issues raised in its regulatory activity.
- Where social workers subject to validation are given advice on their CPD – if the learning is deemed not relevant or the submission lacks a clear description of the impact on practice – they would be required to submit a fresh piece of CPD within two months, which would then be assessed. If this were accepted, no further action would be taken. If it were not, they would either be subject to validation again the following year following renewal of their registration, or their CPD would be assessed prior to renewal. In the latter case, if their CPD was not accepted, their subsequent registration may be conditional on meeting further CPD requirements.
CPD ‘more than just training’
In the latest registration renewal round, 96% of the 2,205 social workers whose CPD was validated had it accepted by the 10 independent assessors responsible for evaluating their submissions, five of whom were social workers.
The remaining 89 social workers were given advice and will automatically have their CPD validated following renewal in December.
Social Work England said that the feedback from the assessors included the importance of demonstrating the impact of CPD on practice, that submissions need not be excessively long – with 300-80o words recommended, -attachments should only be included when they add value and that CPD was more than just formal training.
Give practitioners extra time, employers urged
The YouGov research found that social workers backed the regulator engaging with employers so that they set aside time for practitioners to do CPD, a view echoed by Social Workers Union general secretary John McGowan in response to the consultation.
“Ongoing professional development is so vital for social workers throughout their careers, which is why employers will need to recognise these extra requirements and provide suitable opportunities for learning,” he said.
“The sector has been under immense caseloads and work pressure, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Therefore, we would urge social work leaders to give practitioners additional time to complete additional CPD during the current period and to strike a balance in the future between development and workload.”
The consultation runs until 11 August.