The government plans to close the temporary social worker register in the coming months, a review of the Coronavirus Act 2020 has said.
The register was set up in March 2020 to bolster the workforce during the pandemic, with anyone leaving the main social work register since March 2018 enrolled automatically. However, of around 13,500 former social workers on the temporary register, a recent survey found around 100 were practising.
The review of the act, published last week, said that “employment of temporary registrants remains relatively low” despite fluctuations in demand. The government would monitor the situation, with a view to closing the register in the coming months, giving sufficient notice to registrants and employers so they could make alternative arrangements, the review added.
Local Government Association (LGA) community wellbeing board chairman David Fothergill said that, while the temporary register had been helpful, the longer it continued, the less able Social Work England would be to regulate those who did not meet the criteria for restoration to the main register.
LGA backs new return to social work scheme
He said employers needed “plenty of notice before the temporary register is closed so that they are not left with vacancies”, and that the LGA would support government funding for another return to social work programme to enable former practitioners to be restored to the main register.
An LGA-run returners’ programme last year, targeted at those who had been out of practice for between two and ten years, resulted in 133 practitioners being restored to the register, of 183 who completed the training scheme. As of March 2021, 72 had gone into employment, the LGA said.
A recent LGA survey of councils’ recruitment situation found that of 97 responding English councils with social services responsibilities, reported having trouble recruiting children’s social workers and 36% problems recruiting adults’ social workers.
The review of the Coronavirus Act was the latest in a series of two-monthly government checks on its impact. The previous review led to the return of Care Act 2014 duties which had been suspended earlier in the pandemic.
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