The GSCC as the body which registers social workers in England has been, since its inception, responsible for the registration of people who study social work at universities too.
As the GSCC was one of the victims of the infamous (and in my opinion, rash) ‘bonfire of the quangos’, the role of registering social workers will be picked up by the HPC (Health Professionals Council) which already registers a number of different professions such as Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech Therapists and others. The HPC does not specifically register students.
Currently, the HPC is conducting a consultation on the need (or not) for social work students to be registered voluntarily (it can’t be a mandatory process – indeed, it isn’t at present but there are issues with non-registered students and placements which I suspect would be the case if there were a voluntary system in the future).
David Rowland from the GSCC wrote an article on the Guardian Social Care Network explaining why he felt that it was important that the students continue to be registered by a regulator.
He cites the counter arguments that universities should be able to determine fitness to complete a course by explaining that if there is need for a national register of qualified social workers, there is a similar need for registers of student social workers.
I agree for the most part with Rowland. Social Work placements tend to be longer than the placements for other professions. I have students with me for between 90-120 days at a time. As a Practice Educator, I supervise my students closely but I have to allow a free rein to an extent and ensure that my students practice independently in order to prepare them for qualified work.
Social Work has a particular role in placing itself at the heart of work with people who may be in vulnerable positions at the particular point of contact with services and the unfortunate truth is that some people seek out these kinds of jobs because there is a power differential.
Practice, policies and theories can be learnt and taught but a sound ethical base and strong professional and personal values cannot necessarily be instructed into people. If someone is going to fail at a hurdle, it is better this happens sooner in their career rather than later.
An individual registration ensures that the student is personally responsible for their own practice and conduct. While it’s right that they are supervised carefully – and they are whilst on placement – there is a degree of personal responsibility for actions that might take place outside the placement that may affect registration – for example, building inappropriate relationships with service users.
Of course there have been concerns about some of the way that the GSCC operates – in particular, this study is interesting in highlighting some of the imbalances in the professional regulator in social work however this study indicates that more uniform decisions about standards at universities are necessary.
Basically, and I have responded to the HPC consultation saying as much, I think, like Rowland, that if there is to be Social Work Registration, there should be Student Social Work Registration. The need for the information regarding misconduct to be carried centrally is essential and above all, it is an additional protection for those who use and need social work services in England.
I’d be interested in the views of others but rather than leaving a comment here (although of course you are welcome to!) go to the HPC consultation and fill in their response form there. It closes on Friday 2 March.
Credit: Photo University Ohio Libraries