19 September 2012

Changes in the regulation of social workers in England

There has been a big change in the way social workers are registered in the United Kingdom following a decision imposed by the government without consultation and implemented on 1 August 2012.

On 1 August 2012 the General Social Care Council closed down and the regulation of the social work profession and social work education in England transferred to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).  The Care Councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain in existence and will work jointly with the HCPC which only regulates social work in England.

Registration of internationally qualified social workers

Many social workers who qualify in other countries are interested in working in the UK and a large number are already registered and working there.  This briefing provides information for qualified social workers who would like to seek work as a social worker there.

Social workers who wish to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and have undergone professional training abroad can find information about how to apply here.  It is now necessary to provide at least one professional reference and a background check consent form. The additional forms required are included in the International application pack.  Social work is a protected title in the UK and anybody wishing to work as or call themselves a social worker must be registered with the HCPC.

GSCC legacy publications

The GSCC website and all of its content, including research and other publications, has been placed in the National Archives and is available for reference. The GSCC archive is available here.

The GSCC published a series of research reports examining its achievements and legacy and developments in social work over the period of its existence (2001-2012).  These give a significant insight into social work in England (and the UK) over this period.  All the reports are available free from the National Archives.

The reports include

Regulating social workers 2001-12

Regulating social work education 2001-12

GSCC targeted inspections of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHP) courses in England (2011-12)

Involving people who use services and their carers in the work of the GSCC (2010-12)

The supply of social work practice placements: Employers’ views

Professional Boundaries in Social Work

The campaign to create a regulatory body for social work lasted for many decades.  The British Association of Social Workers played the leading role in that campaign, for many years being the only voice calling for the regulation of social workers.  The campaign was later taken up by an alliance of several bodies which eventuially resulted in legislation.  BASW has always argued that regulation and registration was needed both to protect the interests of the public and to raise standards of practice and thereby to raise and protect the status of the profession.

This dual objective is still possible under the umbrella of the new regulator which regulates several professions most of which, apart from social work, are practicing mainly within the health service.  It remains to be seen how well the new Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) manages to achieve a consistent approach across such different professional groups and how this will affect the identity and values of social work.