Social Work England seeks to boost efficiency through rule changes

Proposals reflect learning from past two years, says regulator, with majority of changes concerning fitness to practise processes

Philip Hallam, Social Work England
Philip Hallam, Social Work England's executive director, registration and quality assurance

Story updated 6 April 2022

Social Work England is seeking to improve the efficiency of its operations, particularly in relation to fitness to practise, through changes to its governing laws and rules.

Last month, the Department for Education, which is responsible for the regulator, launched a consultation on changes to the legal framework setting out how the organisation operates, the Social Work Regulations 2018.

This followed a consultation that Social Work England issued on changes to its rules, which are not dependent on legal changes. Both consultations conclude next month.

‘Improving operational efficiency’

The proposals reflect the regulator’s learning from the just over two years since it took responsibility for overseeing the profession, said Social Work England’s executive director of registration, quality assurance and legal, Philip Hallam.

On the regulatory changes, he said: “Together with the Department for Education, we have been reflecting on our first two years operating under the Social Workers Regulations 2018 and have identified some changes to improve operational efficiency.

“These proposals do not change our overall direction or ambition, but we want to hear the views of as many people as possible on what these changes will mean for them and the regulation of social work in England.”

He relayed the same message in relation to the rule changes, adding: “By getting more input, we open ourselves up to viewpoints and implications we may not have considered, and we can factor those into our decision making.”

Several of the proposed regulatory changes are designed to strengthen Social Work England’s ability to deliver on its overarching objective of public protection, which encompasses promoting and maintaining public safety and wellbeing, confidence in social work and professional standards.

Updating register with fitness to practise outcomes

One change would involve enabling Social Work England to update the register immediately to specify that a practitioner had received any adverse fitness to practise outcome, other than a final order imposed by a hearing panel.

Currently, in these circumstances, the person’s record would not be updated until the expiry of the appeal period or there had been an outcome of any appeal.

However, under the plans, social workers subject to interim orders – to suspend them or place conditions on their practice – or accepted disposals – where they agree to an outcome without a hearing – would have these recorded immediately.

“While we recognise this change will have a resulting impact on the registrant, we consider this provision is necessary to ensure public safety and maintain public confidence in the regulator,” said the DfE.

The regulatory changes would also ensure interim orders came into force immediately, notwithstanding any appeal by the social worker.

Disclosing information on social workers

Under the plans, the regulator would also gain the power to disclose information on past and present registrants, and applicants to join the register, to specified organisations, including social work employers, NHS bodies and fellow regulators, where it deemed this in the public interest.

It would separately gain the power to disclose information in relation to a social worker’s fitness to practise to any individual, if it considered this in the public interest.

The DfE said these provisions would complement Social Work England’s existing power – under section 52 of the Children and Social Work Act – to publish or disclose information relating to any aspect of its functions.

Voluntary removal from register 

Currently, the regulations prohibit a social worker being voluntarily removed from the register while they are subject to fitness to practise proceedings.

However, the DfE has proposed changing this, to enable Social Work England to allow removal in these circumstances. It would also be able to publish details about the fitness to practise concerns on the register – alongside the fact of voluntary removal – so long as it did not mention the person’s health.

The DfE said the regulator would make future changes to its rules, setting out its proposed approach to voluntary removal.

“Protection of the public from registrants whose fitness to practise could be impaired will be the regulator’s primary consideration when deciding whether or not voluntary removal is appropriate,” the department added.

Representation of social workers at fitness to practise hearings

Among Social Work England’s proposed rule changes are provisions for social workers and the regulator to be represented by chartered legal executives – lawyers who tend to be qualified in a particular area of law – in fitness to practise hearings.

Currently, they may only be legally represented by solicitors or barristers, though they can also be represented by professional bodies or, at the regulator or hearing panel’s discretion, a family member or suitable person.

There would also be a toughening up of requirements on practitioners seeking to have their registration restored after a period away from the profession.

Currently, there are no specific requirements on those whose registration has lapsed for more than two years in relation to updating their skills, unlike the situation for those seeking to join the register more than two years after qualifying.

The planned changes would bring the two systems into line, so that practitioners whose registration had lapsed for more than five years would need to provide evidence of 60 days’ learning, with those out of registration for between two and five years needing to provide evidence of 30 days’ updating their skills.

The consultation on the proposed regulatory changes ends on 11 May, and you can respond online or by emailing socialworkerregs.consultation@education.gov.uk.

Social Work England will stop consulting on its planned rule changes 26 May, with respondents encouraged to email their views to consultation.responses@socialworkengland.org.uk.

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22 Responses to Social Work England seeks to boost efficiency through rule changes

  1. Maria Sanchez April 5, 2022 at 5:50 pm #

    Good evening,

    I am a Social Worker and I am registered in the Social Work of England.

    Lately, they talk a lot about the Social Worker’s fitness as profesionals which appears that is related to training and supervision.

    It could be interesting to know if they are also taking in to consideration the great pressures that the Social Workers are in due to the lack of sources to support the people that we work with, the amount of paperwork which impact on the lack of time that we can spend with our clients. the end of the COVID-19 funding to proceed with the hospital discharge also.
    What is the position of the Social Work of England and what is the way that they are advocating / supporting the Social Work force?

  2. Doilum April 6, 2022 at 5:25 pm #

    I seem to recall a discussion I a podcast between PSW’s where the consensus was that SWE is and should remain a regulatory body not one engaged in “campaigns.” And there lies the wishy washy don’t bring politics into social work consensus that has and continues to damage our profession and undermine the well-being of social workers. Government approved bureaucrats being given cover by ‘Leaders’ is the grift that always disappoints. We just need to look after each other and ignore as much as we are able the never beens, soon to be has beens and the myriad hangers on who think liking each others tweets is evidence confirming their
    ‘truth’. W.S. Maugham wrote that “When you choose your friends, don’t be short changed by choosing personality over character”. It’s advice we should apply assiduously when faced with our so called leaders.

  3. Toni April 7, 2022 at 10:18 am #

    No need to waste yet more of our registration fees on this. All SWE has to do is stop measuring the supposed effectiveness of it’s regulation of our profession by how many of us it “sanctions”. And ofcourse comply with equality legislation and accept that it has no business in stalking our private social media in search of our “wrong think”.

  4. Jeannette April 8, 2022 at 9:09 am #

    How about a rule change that requruires the ‘Regulator’ to have 75% of it’s staff being qualified and registered social workers. I am sure that the other 25% will ensure the obsession with pointless but worthy ambitions, never evidenced, that occasionally break through to amuse the “public” will not be harmed. Mistrust of social workers to hold other social workers to account and have best practice and public safety as the focus is a cult fetish in SWE. I wonder who will take over from them in 5 years time when even their champions tire of the propoganda.

  5. J Prior April 8, 2022 at 9:25 am #

    I left the profession because of SWE, their incompetence and subtle bullying. My case took 2 years for them to actually give compliments about the piece of work under scrutiny and nothing found against me. However I was broken by this time, lost my confidence etc. They treat you as guilty from the beginning and referrers can say anything about you and they open the case without testing out the referrer/confirming any information is actually true. With my situation a half decent duty worker would have sorted it in two hours. They do not know what they are doing, there was not a social worker looking at my case at all just ex police and admin people. They dont know what they are doing.

  6. Alan Green April 8, 2022 at 10:52 am #

    Conversation 19 months ago: “Me: Why am I showing as failed to register when I’ve asked to be taken off the register?
    SWE: You failed to register when you didn’t submit your CPD.
    Me: But I asked to be removed and stopped my direct debit too. SWE: Yes that’s why you show as failed to register.
    Me: But I didn’t fail to register, I asked to be removed hence no CPD and no fee payment. Please take my name off.
    SWE: Our regulations do not allow us to remove your name from the register when you have failed to register”. Unsurprisingly the complaint letter that I sent in went unacknowledged. Second time of no fees paid in and my name was removed. It would be cynical of me to suggest SWE are deliberately over inflating the numbers for nefarious reasons perhaps but I will anyway. Dealing with SWE staff is not fun unless you regard it as a gothic story gone wrong but it’s beyond even my imagination to comprehend how dreadful it is to have them ‘investigate’ you. Sick of being told that without them the “public” are forever at risk from decent, committed and diligent social workers. Shame on leaders who turns away from the bullying and the contempt and when the CPD merry go round starts up, rush in to tell us to be good little compliant poodles and do as we are told. Yet to see BASW and their acolytes hold SWE to account on why it doesn’t require employers to submit annual CPD reflections on to evidence how they are improving standards and safeguarding the public. I thought SWE was a social work regulator and not just a regulator of individual social workers.

  7. Just asking April 8, 2022 at 11:00 am #

    I have no reason to doubt the soul destroying contributions here. I’ve had no personal dealings with SWE other than paying my fee and updating CPD, so would be interested to hear if there are positive experiences too. Someone must have surely?

    • Jeff April 10, 2022 at 10:58 am #

      I had my compliant passed over to them from HCPC. In total I had this hanging over me for 4 years. The investigation was fair and just. The Case manager was fair and concluded that under the SWE policy they never progressed my compliant.
      But I do feel those who had my the referrals should then have been questioned about the way they conducted the evidence and approach they took against the CODE of practice themselves.
      The SW union gave me a lot of support.

  8. Molly April 8, 2022 at 11:28 am #

    I move for a no confidence motion in the SWE.
    We need a body that supports and assists social workers. A body that innovates to find better ways to help social workers do their job, instead of simply exploiting them for money. Criticising is the easiest job in the world, any idiot can do that. Build us up, let’s see
    new SWE who will do that.

    • julia April 29, 2022 at 3:25 pm #

      Molly, you have expressed what I wanted to say. I missed one page of the re registration process when I was off with stress last November. I had completed the CPD and paid the registration fee. Because of this I had to pay another charge and made to feel like a naughty child. It added to the stress and lengthened the time I was off work.
      I can see no purpose whatsoever for SWE, other than to extract our money and persecute us when there is a complaint. Where does the money go? Is it merely to pay the salaries of those who work there and to keep some sort of ghastly tread mill going? I would be interested to see how much they get paid, as I suspect, this probably equates to a social worker.

  9. Peter April 8, 2022 at 7:40 pm #

    There is ofcourse the silent vote of no confidence in SWE. Of the 23 social workers I know in 3 different LA’s, not one of them ever refers to SWE either without sarcasm or contempt. And that includes1PSW. That we can’t ever have an open discussion without jeopardising our registration says everything. As others have said before, thank you CC for giving us the space to express real social worker experiences.

  10. Geoff Moors April 10, 2022 at 5:15 pm #

    Gosh, I miss the HCPC! Please can we have them back?

    • julia April 29, 2022 at 3:26 pm #

      Nooooooo!!!!

  11. Lucy Lu April 11, 2022 at 11:15 am #

    We had a SWE rep at our all staff meeting and I actually felt sorry for them. They received a lacklustre welcome and took on a volley of complaints from the staff team about SWE being sub-par on several fronts. I’d never want to swap jobs with them!

    • Connie April 12, 2022 at 10:18 pm #

      Did anyone ask if they were a registered social worker?

  12. Caroline April 13, 2022 at 9:48 am #

    How apt that an organisation run by rules obsessed bureaucrats lacking creative and profession appropriate imagination responds to criticism by wanting to make more rules in the hope that that will give it some legitimacy and credibility. Here is a simple tip: understand the difference between “efficiency” and “effectiveness”.

  13. Angela April 13, 2022 at 3:45 pm #

    You should demand a suggestion fee of £90 for that excellent tip Caroline……

  14. DB April 13, 2022 at 10:47 pm #

    After a malicious allegation about me was made I was reported to HCPC in September 2018. My case was assessed as low risk and not resolved by the time SWE took over. They started the process again and I am still awaiting a resolution almost 4 years later. Their incompetence astounds me. I’ve made two formal complaints both of which were upheld and yet still I wait. Something fundamental needs to change.

  15. Andy April 14, 2022 at 9:54 am #

    If BASW supposedly champions the profession, why does it not facilitate a vote of no confidence in SWE? Why are BASW quiet about SWE’s destruction of so many social workers’ careers through their flawed fitness to practice process and discriminatory standards? Why did Wayne Reid have to speak out in his own right when highlighting regulatory racism?

    Why? Because BASW are obedient lapdogs in collusion with SWE, that’s why. I ended my 15 year long BASW membership a while ago. I suggest others consider it too.

    • Percy April 17, 2022 at 10:24 am #

      Because BASW and SWE are the same face of a one sided coin. BASW wanted to be SWE and when they didn’t succeed they convinced themselves that the small chair at the side of the big table would do. Social workers should listen to Andy. We need to take off our blinkers and see the satisfied by any old stale biscuit chaser for what they actually are: self congratulating bureaucracy affirming clueless panderers and not the leaders they claim to be. Pay your £90 to SWE because you have to but don’t waste your well earned corn on BASW because you don’t have to.

    • Mark April 18, 2022 at 9:34 pm #

      You and me both! I spent about 18 years with BASW,they challenge nothing….

  16. Anonymous April 29, 2022 at 11:42 am #

    SWE the enemy out to get you, you are guilty from the beginning. You are then indirectly bullied by them for 2 years plus because it takes them this long to find out stuff that can take decent social worker on duty to do in 2/3 hours. Then they tell you no case to answer. No apology from anyone but by this time you are broken. You leave while at the top of your profession.