The temporary registration of social workers in England and Wales during the pandemic ends today.
Social Work England will remove temporarily registered practitioners – who numbered about 6,500 as of this summer – today, giving them a fortnight (until 14 October) to cease practising as social workers. It had previously notified them of the ending of temporary registration on 29 July and 16 September.
Social Care Wales said it had been in touch with the five remaining practitioners on its temporary register, offering support for them to rejoin the main register. While they will not be able to practise after today if they do not rejoin, the Welsh regulator said it would take a supportive and sympathetic approach to practitioners in this position over the next month.
Temporary registration was introduced in March 2020 under the Coronavirus Act, to bolster the workforce, in case of increases in demand or staff depletion due to sick leave or self-isolation.
In England, temporary registration was applied automatically to about 8,000 practitioners who had left the register over the previous two years.
They were then supplemented by those who left the register voluntarily up to December 2020, or were removed in November of that year following the annual renewal process.
In November 2021, Social Work England began removing the temporary registration of those who had left the full register more than two years previously, as a public protection measure, given that the group were not subject to any pre-registration checks.
Few practitioners temporarily registered
Though data was not collected on the use of temporarily registered practitioners, a survey in March 2021 found only around 100 of 13,500 practitioners who were then temporarily registered in England were practising.
A different approach was followed in Wales, with Social Care Wales inviting previously registered practitioners to opt into a temporary list to enable them to practise. As of December 2021, 79 practitioners were on this register.
The Welsh list was closed to new professionals in March of this year, but those already on it were permitted to continue practising, as have those practitioners who had remained temporarily registered in England.
Social Work England said this week that temporarily registered practitioners would not be able to continue to use the protected title of social worker beyond 14 October unless they had successfully applied to restore their registration, at a cost of £135.
Restoration is available to anyone previously registered with Social Work England or predecessor regulator the Health and Care Professions Council. Anyone who has been out of practice for two years or more must provide evidence of how they have kept their skills and knowledge up to date.
Executive director of regulation Philip Hallam: “Social workers played an important role in supporting communities during the Covid-19 pandemic and we would like to thank those with temporary registration who returned to practise. We have given social workers as much notice as possible that temporary registration is ending. If you are considering continuing your practice after 30 September 2022, we encourage you to apply for restoration as soon as possible.”
Social Care Wales has its own arrangements for practitioners returning to its main register.