Guide to social work registration and regulation in England

Standards of proficiency | continuing professional development | fitness to practise

The registration and regulation of social workers in England changed on 1 August 2012, when the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) took over responsibility for the social care register. Social workers are now faced with a new set of standards, a fitness to practise system of regulation and different requirements for re-registering, including a new approach to continuing professional development (CPD), which comes into effect in December. Make sure you understand how these changes will affect your practice using our guides.

Registration and CPD


The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) requires its registrants to re-register on a set date every two years. Social workers who have transferred across from the General Social Care Council will have to prove they meet the HCPC’s standards and keep a detailed record of their continuing professional development (CPD) in order to re-register in the future. Make sure you understand the changes using our guide.

Guide to the change in registration

Social workers will have to record CPD differently (Isopix/Rex Features)

Eight-point guide to the CPD changes

1. Professional development is changing, right?

Yes, it’s a result of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) taking over the regulation of social workers in England from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) as of 1 August. As part of the change, the GSCC’s post-registration training and learning (PRTL) system will be replaced by the HPC’s continuing professional development (CPD) approach.

2. What does the switchover from PRTL to CPD mean?

It’s not just a change of acronym. At the moment social workers in England must demonstrate they’ve done at least 90 hours of professional development in order to re-register every three years. The HCPC still wants social workers to record their learning activities, but it doesn’t require them to complete a fixed number of hours. Instead, the incoming regulator is more interested in how learning activities have improved social workers’ skills and helped service users (see below).

3. How will CPD be measured if the HPC doesn’t count hours?

The HCPC benchmarks CPD against its standards, which you can find out more about here. Registrants must demonstrate that they have kept continuous, up-to-date and accurate CPD records, so cramming in most of the training just before registration won’t do. They also need to show a mix of activities that are relevant to their current or future practice and show how these contributed to the quality of their work as well as how they benefited service users. Finally, registered social workers must be able to produce written CPD profiles backed up with evidence. Find out more about what HCPC expects on its website.

There is no requirement to refer to the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) in your CPD profile, but it can help you plan your learning. Look at the different capabilities for your level; consider which you can already demonstrate and which you need to develop. What does your employer expect of you, based on your specialism and level of experience?

4. Will the HCPC check every social worker’s CPD profile?

The HCPC will register every social worker in England on the same date every two years, so it’s impractical for it to check every individual CPD profile. Instead, at registration time, 2.5% of social workers will be picked at random and told to submit CPD profiles for auditing. The randomness of the sample means it is possible social workers could go a whole career without doing one, but equally they could end up having to submit one every two years. Newly qualified social workers will be excluded from the audit.

5. What counts as CPD?

Anything you can justify as beneficial to your work or service users is acceptable. It could be formal training, attending a conference, reading an article on Community Care Inform, mentoring someone or joining a professional body. Even watching TV could count, as long as it’s relevant (i.e. not Homes Under the Hammer). There is a list of suggested activities in appendix one of this guide on the HCPC’s website, but it is by no means exhaustive. Basically, if you can prove it helped your practice, it counts.

6. What do these CPD profiles look like?

If audited, you will have to present a written profile, which consists of a summary of your practice history for the last two years, a statement of how you have met standards of CPD and evidence to support that. You should choose roughly four or five activities (the ones you learned the most from) to evidence your statement. See above for some CPD profiles for social workers

7. When will these changes affect me?

The register transfers to the HCPC on 1 August, so you should start thinking about your CPD profile then. However, the first audit of CPD profiles, which is due to take place in 2014, will assess CPD activities starting from 1 December 2012. That means there’s a grace period of a few months when you won’t have to record CPD, although you should still be planning your learning and development. You could theoretically carry some of your current PRTL activities over: for example, you might learn something now that you don’t put into place until the end of this year, so it would come under the HPC’s time frame.

The first audit of CPD profiles will take place in the run up to November 2014, when all social workers in England will be expected to re-register with the HPC.

8. Anything else I should know on the training front?

The HCPC isn’t going to take over the GSCC’s job of accrediting post-qualifying (PQ) courses. The GSCC says the College of Social Work might take this work on, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Date Published: 30 July 2012


New standards for social workers

Health and Care Professions Council logo

Now that the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has taken over the social care register in England, the General Social Care Council’s (GSCC) Codes of Practice no longer apply. Instead, the HCPC has created a new set of “standards of proficiency”, which set out what registered social workers are expected to know, understand and be able to apply.

Registered social workers will also need to adhere to the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics. These standards are not specific to social work; they apply to all of the HCPC-regulated professions. However, they are much the same as the GSCC’s codes: keep accurate records; respect service user confidentiality; don’t take illegal drugs outside (or at) work, and so on.

Sample CPD profiles

If you are selected for audit by the HCPC in 2014 or beyond, you will need to send them a profile showing how your CPD activities meet their standards. Here, you can download example profiles as guidance (PDF).

Children’s social worker

Adult social worker

Mental health social worker

Listen: Guide to the CPD changes

Download our podcast on the changes to CPD, which includes expert interviews and reactions from social workers. Why not download our podcast to listen to on the train or in the car?


Find out more

If you have any further questions or comments about CPD:

Visit the HCPC website

Submit them to your peers on our forum, CareSpace

Email them to Community Care’s workforce editor, Kirsty McGregor

How Community Care can help you meet the new registration and regulation requirements for social workers

The Health and Care Professions Council asks registrants to demonstrate a mixture of learning activities, keep a continuous and up-to-date record of their CPD activities and show how this has made a difference to practice and service users.


Updates to your inbox

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Make sure you’re up-to-date with the latest developments in social work by reading the latest news and practice developments. Take part in one of our free, good practice debates, or share advice with your peers on our CareSpace discussion forums. Sign up to one of our daily and weekly emails to ensure you don’t miss anything.


Improve your practice

Community Care Inform

Evidence your decisions and assessments by using Inform’s wealth of expert-written, practice-related information. This includes case law summaries, guidance to key pieces of legislation and in-depth practice guides. Inform subscribers can log their CPD activities in one place with the simple click of a button.


Face-to-face learning

Community Care conferences

For in-depth, face-to-face learning, attend a Community Care conference to develop your skills and practice knowledge. Benefit from learning the latest best-practice approaches developed by your peers and from sector leaders. You’ll hear from experts in the field to put new policy and guidance into practice and make a difference to the people you work with. With plenty of time for questions, this is the ideal way to take your learning and that of your teams’, to the next level.


Community Care Live

Community Care newsletter

Community Care Live Children and Families takes place on 14 November 2012. This free event will enable you to learn from practice approaches that make a positive difference to the lives and outcomes of service users. Delegates will also have the opportunity to meet a wide-range of experts to ensure you’re up-to-date with the latest developments in work with children, young people and their families.

Evidence your decisions and assessments by using Inform’s wealth of expert-written, practice-related information. This includes case law summaries, guidance to key pieces of legislation and in-depth practice guides. Inform subscribers can log their CPD activities in one place through the simple click of a button








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