Social worker CPD submissions lagging behind 2021 levels, regulator reveals

3% of practitioners have met requirement to upload two pieces of CPD, including one peer reflection, five months before registration renewal deadline, says Social Work England

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For registered social workers in England: how confident are you of meeting this year's CPD requirements by the end of November?

  • Very confident (49%, 218 Votes)
  • Very unconfident (19%, 87 Votes)
  • Somewhat confident (18%, 80 Votes)
  • Somewhat unconfident (9%, 41 Votes)
  • Don't know (5%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 449

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Continuing professional development submissions by social workers in England are lagging behind 2021 levels despite increased requirements this year, the regulator has revealed.

As of the end of June, 8% of practitioners – just under 8,000 social workers – had submitted at least one piece of CPD to Social Work England, compared with 14% by the same period last year, said a report to the regulator’s board meeting today.

This is despite the regulator having set tougher conditions for practitioners to renew their registration this year, involving submitting two pieces of CPD and detailing learning they have acquired from reflecting on one of the pieces with a peer. Last year’s requirement was to submit one piece of CPD, with no need for a peer reflection, by the end of the annual renewal cycle – 30 November – as was the case in Social Work England’s first registration year, 2020.

The board paper revealed that just 3% of social workers had met the complete CPD requirement by the end of June, five months before the registration renewal deadline.

The regulator sent a targeted message to social workers last month, reminding them of what they had to do, having previously written to employers and all registrants about the new system.

Social Work England told Community Care it was not concerned about the situaton and its focus was on ensuring all social workers met the CPD conditions by 30 November, referencing the fact that most practitioners had submitted CPD during the three-month renewal period starting on 1 September in each of the previous two years.

CPD is ‘non-negotiable’

In a statement, Philip Hallam, its executive director of regulation, said: “CPD is an integral part of your career as a social worker and fundamental to being a registered professional. All social workers should reflect on their experiences, look for opportunities to learn and improve and consider the professional standards as part of their role. We suggest that it is beneficial to record your learning throughout the year, however this is entirely up to you.

“What is non-negotiable is that you must meet the CPD requirements to renew your registration with us, by 30 November. If you don’t meet the renewal requirements by the deadline, then you can no longer practise as a social worker. It is a protected title, and by law you cannot use it and practise unless you are registered with Social Work England.”

CPD guidance

You can find full guidance on the CPD requirements on Social Work England’s website, covering topics including how to record CPD on your online account with the regulator, what counts as continuing professional development and how to submit a peer reflection.

It is also holding a number of online workshops on this year’s CPD requirements, on which you can book a place.

Community Care Inform has also produced a guide to how users can upload CPD to their Social Work England accounts from Inform.

However, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Social Workers Union (SWU) warned that work pressures were creating significant barriers to practitioners fulfilling their CPD obligations.

“BASW provides a flexible and blended core offer of CPD and is committed to supporting social workers to develop their skills, but many of our members have shared that the volume and complexity of their work, coupled with excessive hours, are directly limiting them accessing CPD opportunities and having reflective time to complete registration evidence,” said BASW England national director Maris Stratulis.

“We need to evidence and truly understand why a lower percentage of registrants have not uploaded their CPD compared to the previous year and explore ways to support registrants in an ever increasing and demanding work and personal environment.”

Social workers ‘burnt out and exhausted’

SWU national organiser Carol Reid said: “SWU is not surprised by this slower response given that our members tell us that they are burnt out and exhausted and see the new requirements as additional levels of interrogation when they are already snowed under with the pressures of demanding caseloads, additional hours, lack of support, and often no flexibility to rigid full-time working patterns. Our members see high turnovers of staff, cases growing in numbers and complexity, and little chance of productive and reflective supervision – including opportunities for peer reflection – so it’s hardly surprising that there is no rush to complete the newly updated forms.

“SWU welcomes supportive input from Social Work England in relation to adapting and developing their ways of collecting evidence of CPD, but it must consider the context, time limitations, and frustrations experienced by social workers when requested to collate, document, and reflect upon their daily interventions.”

In 2020, Social Work England removed 256 practitioners who applied to renew their registration but did not complete the CPD requirement, with 125 removed for the same reason in 2021. In those years, social workers who applied to renew were given an additional three weeks, after the 30 November deadline, to submit CPD, but this grade period will not be available this year.

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14 Responses to Social worker CPD submissions lagging behind 2021 levels, regulator reveals

  1. Victoria Coker July 23, 2022 at 9:38 am #

    Could it be that SWs are not finding it the best way to test their abilities in this difficult time, covid, overwork and lack of recognition. I spoke to some SWs and they found the whole thing frightened and not helpful and mainly in the way of them getting on with their day to day work especially when they all have managers and supervisors that monitor their progressions and supervise them. Not strangers that they see as picking on them. Are the people assessing them social workers, how long have they qualified? And who supervises them around the major issues, politically, socially, the going on in our world affecting their service users, multi-agencies issues and poverty. What criteria are they using for marking and judging. Is the approaches and the system treat everyone equally with no discrimination. How are managers, senior managers, education professionals in universities assess against the criteria? Many questions unanswered. Put SWs off the whole thing. Thanks

    • Alison July 24, 2022 at 10:43 pm #

      You raise important questions but they will remain unanswered by SWE. Regulation in England is not about standards really but a tail chasing effort to show that we have been ‘professionalised. Layer upon layer of unverifiable claims of supposedly evidence based regulation sadly supported by BASW and PSWs dies not cannot and never will raise our profile.

  2. Patrick July 23, 2022 at 11:39 am #

    “BASW provides a flexible and blended core offer of CPD”. What does this actually mean? Does it comes with a free doughnut if you have a membership card?

  3. Hamish July 23, 2022 at 11:52 am #

    Could SWE motivate us to get a move on by sharing how many and indeed if any, social workers whose CPD they actually appraised were asked to resubmit or were removed from the register as a consequence of not meeting the required standard? My guess is none and nine. Evidence that the registration process is rigorous and not going through the motions meaningless bureaucracy if you want us to have confidence and be enthused.

  4. Rachele July 25, 2022 at 10:02 am #

    I was appraised, then had to wait from the end of November to the 23rd of March to find out the outcome was ‘advice given’ so 4 months of additional stress and anxiety. This means that I will automatically be appraised this year. I have spent the last year covering both social work posts in my organisation after someone left and was not replaced which has been all consuming. I am very worried about the expectations of appraisers and consequently that my CPD may not reach their requirements. In short this year has made me question how long I can, or want to, sustain this level of pressure.

  5. Molly July 25, 2022 at 10:38 am #

    I will never understand this. UK makes it apparent it Hates it’s social workers. They are exploited and reviled. Their unions and licensing body is useless. They work all hours, but are never paid a penny overtime unless they go agency. Everyone knows this. So why keep going round in circles discussing the same thing if there’s no change intended or discussed. The CPD is just another tick box exercise to overload the already overloaded.

    • Anonymous July 26, 2022 at 1:57 pm #

      Fully agree with everything you say Molly, just a correction, agency workers are not paid overtime either.
      You get paid for the contracted hours (usually 36) and can negotiate toil with your manager. Most local authorities allow a max of 2 days a month, which is often a lot less than your actual overtime.

    • Anonymous August 1, 2022 at 5:30 pm #

      Totally agree. Pointless tick boxing exercise to submit SWE CPD. SWE does not give a stuff about SWs. The constant turnover of social care staff is giving a message – we need to be treated better, respected more, and be less the scapegoat for bosses, families, media and the government.

  6. DKR July 26, 2022 at 2:09 pm #

    It cannot be denied that there is cause for professionals within social work to be adherent to structured monitoring of practice capability. However, it is evident to even the least informed SWE is a government sponsored regulatory body which neither identifies, nor wishes to identify the reality for professional SW’s working in statutory roles within the UK; chronic under resourcing, exploitation of practitioner goodwill and they then being scapegoated for the failings in government enforced policy and procedures which place people at risk and expose them to inadequate service provision.

    It fascinates me that SWE can exercise such levels institutional denial, coluded with at times by BASW, of the real causes of practice failure that leads to vulnerable adults and children being harmed.

    The SWE is purely a punitive uncompassionate mechanism offering little positive support to enabling practitioners to support their professional development or in maintaining professional standards.

  7. D SW July 26, 2022 at 3:15 pm #

    SWE are not for the realities of SW’s in England. If we don’t make a stand nothing will change !

  8. Tess July 27, 2022 at 7:48 pm #

    Until SWE can show that this process actually improves performance and develops professional standards I for one will go through the motions of providing “evidence” simply to keep my registration. We had a fairly intemperate discussion with our PSW about having no confidence in the claims made by SWE about this to which he responded with “It’s they who need to have confidence in you not the other way round”.

    • Neil July 30, 2022 at 9:41 am #

      A better example of how the bureaucratic mind dominates social work will be hard to find Tess.

  9. Emily T August 6, 2022 at 3:02 pm #

    I’ll be submitting my CPD at the last minute to cause maximum disruption and inconvenience to SWE as a silent protest. I know lots of social workers who will be doing the same.

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  1. SWU comments on Local Authority pay rises and low 2022 CPD submissions – SWU Social Workers Union - July 29, 2022

    […] The Social Workers Union (SWU) and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) warned that work pressures were creating significant barriers to practitioners fulfilling their CPD obligations. […]

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