Social work regulations set to change following consultation

Rule changes aimed at improving Social Work England's efficiency will come into force in December subject to parliamentary approval

Image of folder marked 'Regulations' (credit: caracoot / Adobe Stock)
(credit: caracoot / Adobe Stock)

Proposed amendments to rules governing social workers will go ahead following a consultation by the Department for Education (DfE).

The changes to social work regulations largely affect fitness-to-practice processes, as well as related matters around information sharing.

They are likely to come into force on 1 December subject to approval by Parliament, to align with Social Work England’s registration cycle, the DfE said in a consultation response published this month.

Social Work England’s executive director of regulation, Philip Hallam, said: “We are pleased the legislative changes we identified as being necessary to improve our work to efficiently and effectively protect the public continue to be taken forward by the Department for Education following the outcome of this consultation.”

In all, the DfE’s exercise, which took place between March and May this year, attracted 48 responses, 22 of which came from individual social workers.

Organisations including the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), Ofsted and Unison also submitted responses.

Expanded disclosures

Most of the proposals contained in the consultation attracted strong backing from respondents, ranging from 68% to 94%.

Key changes include:

  • Expanding Social Work England’s duties around disclosing information on registrants – and applicants to the register – to specified organisations, including social work employers, NHS bodies and fellow regulators, where this is deemed to be in the public interest.
  • Amending regulations so that all fitness-to-practise sanctions made against social workers, with the exception of final orders, will appear immediately on the register, regardless of any appeal.
  • Giving the regulator discretion to grant voluntary removal from the register where there are fitness-to-practise issues, with such decisions and “further details [Social Work England] deems necessary” to be published, provided these do not infringe on individuals’ rights.
  • A series of changes relating to fitness-to-practise investigation proceedings, including broadening the regulator’s powers to require disclosure of information and to initiate interim orders, and clarifying Social Work England’s administrative responsibilities around case management.
  • Making provision for interim orders to come into force immediately, even where they are being appealed.
  • Giving case examiners, as well as adjudicators, the power to impose removal orders in certain circumstances.
  • Amending the review period relating to interim orders from three to six months.
  • Making provision for warning orders to be extended for up to five years rather than three, as is currently the case.

The amendment regarding the immediate publication of fitness-to-practise outcomes was the most contentious, with almost a fifth of respondents saying they disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Most of those opposed to the change cited fears that it could unfairly impact on social workers.

Other concerns raised included that expanding the regulator’s powers to require information could place a burden on individuals and organisations, and that the proposals around extending warning orders were “excessive” and could increase uncertainty around social workers’ fitness to practise.

‘Supporting effective public protection’

In its published response, the DfE said the changes would “further improve the regulator’s operational efficiency in support of effective public protection”.

It added: “The DfE intends to take forward the Social Workers (Amendment and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2022, which will support Social Work England to improve its processes and procedures for fitness to practise concerns and ensure [it] is able to confidently disclose relevant information to those who need it.”

The DfE’s statement said the draft regulations would be introduced to Parliament “shortly” but that there would be a delay of at least two months before they came into force to “give social workers and other interested parties time to take account of the changes” and for Social Work England to update its documentation.


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7 Responses to Social work regulations set to change following consultation

  1. Hannah G August 25, 2022 at 8:33 am #

    Oh great, more oppression of social workers by SWE.

  2. Maria August 25, 2022 at 9:27 am #

    And they wonder why so many SW’s are leaving the profession & deregistering from SWE!

  3. Fay August 25, 2022 at 8:15 pm #

    What a shame, at a time when social workers are struggling with unmanageable caseloads let alone the low wages, will ur regulator feels this is the right time to introduce more punitive measures. This will only increase anxiety and stress leading to burnout of social workers. It hurts so much knowing how much social workers work so hard yet not even the regulator acknowledges this. With this attitude, a large number of social workers will leave the profession unfortunately.

  4. Frasierfanclub1 August 26, 2022 at 7:17 am #

    A total of 48 responses, and within that only 22 social workers. Are we really so apathetic that we didn’t bother to protect ourselves and our colleagues from such a draconian and oppressive threat to our profession?

  5. Dan August 28, 2022 at 8:39 pm #

    More than one way to skin a cat. Interesting to consider government strategy over the past 30 – 40 years and how it has managed to dismantle various professions and social institutions by stealth and various cunning means. Thatcher took advice from various psychological consultancies during the miners strike.

  6. Imelda Hall August 28, 2022 at 9:31 pm #

    Omg!!!….I am so glad I’ve just left….Never to return. At a time when we should be supporting social workers to do their job, you focus on this???….What about shifting the focus to supporting social workers to carry out their duties. Conservative hypocrisy, who have the bare faced cheek to con us all out of a public service, as yet another part of it is chipped away.
    I, along with the VAST MAJORITY of swkrs, ARE FULLY accountable for our practice. This Conservative government who control us, however DO NOT. Where is THEIR accountability for their cheating lies and trying to con people. It’s not swkrs who need to be put under scrutiny but the leaders of the land.

  7. Lucy Lane August 29, 2022 at 12:32 am #

    What will it take for social work to protect itself from SWE?