The Exciting World of Social Work Registration in England
As of yesterday, I am a registered with the HCPC – (Health and Care Professionals Council ) previously known as the HPC (Health Professionals Council) which took over registration for Social Workers in England from 1st August.
The GSCC (General Social Care Council) which previously held the responsibility for the registration of English Social Workers wound up on the 31st July and is no more.
Out with the Old
The GSCC wasn’t always bathed in glory. It had a very difficult start and while there was a general feeling that protection of title of social workers and the idea of a register was a good thing, the implementation wobbled at times. Initially the GSCC was intended to register all social care workers and it never quite managed that – a wasted opportunity to regulate a sector that in my view, needed it. I also think the ties between social work and social care should have been fortified as it doesn’t necessarily make sense to me to distance ourselves as social workers from social care workers.
It’s worth remembering amid the fond and grateful recollections of the GSCC that it also had significant difficulties in managing the responsibility for regulation and having a potentially dangerous backlog in conduct hearings that potentially had a serious effect on the safety and protection of those who rely on social work services, with Mike Wardle, a previous Chief Executive, being suspended in 2009.
The concept of a professional register is useful and necessary to maintain standards and safety of those who use social work services but did it need to be a specific body for social work itself?
The GSCC did seem to pick up but perhaps the damage had been done in terms of reputation and the growth of the College of Social Work to pick up representative issues and the promotion of the profession and the education of professionals made the reasons for some of the separation less clear.
My reservations remain around the issue of a lack of register for students which I felt was a valuable addition to the GSCC role and the HCPC have stated they do not wish to continue with this but will rather, rely on universities to monitor their students. As a Practice Educator, I should, I guess have faith in the universities I work with but I see a desire to pass and accept students at all cost.
There is a fundamental difference in the way that social work placements operate that make it more necessitous for social work students than for students in other professions. Social Work placements can be longer and students are expected to be doing clinical work with those who use services independently. This matter is still in flux and it will be a matter of time to see how it progresses with the Universities taking over responsibility for ensuring their students are fit to practice during placements.
In with the New
The HCPC insists there are advantages about being part of a multi-professional register. For me, the most obvious one will be a system which is devised and embedded to work with multiple ‘fitness to practice’ panels. It is not a reinvention of the wheel. The purpose is protection of public and that is something the HCPC have been doing for a long time.
I don’t need the regulator as a ‘voice’ of the profession – indeed – it was an unusual fit and perhaps only existed as a function in the GSCC because it didn’t exist elsewhere. I’m hopeful the College of Social Work will take shape and prove useful for the profession – but that demands engagement and involvement from all social workers. We have been notoriously bad at joining professional associations and unions as a group but honestly think that the only way we can make, affect and grow the impact of the Social Work is to join and engage with the College of Social Work.
As for the higher fee for registration, personally, it’s not a major issue. It’s not something I have a choice about, it’s not an unreasonable sum of money and I prefer an independent regulator as opposed to a government backed regulator and this is the price I pay. It’s irritating that I renewed my GSCC registration this year and have to pay again later this year but it’s not something that I’m going to expend annoyance on. I have a job and it’s a price I pay for it. Much better than not being registered!
The way the ‘fitness to practice’ panels will work as against the GSCC standards, I’ll reserve judgement but honestly, if it works for OTs, Art Therapists, Psychologists, Paramedics and many more, I have no doubt it will work for social workers in England too.
So thanks to the GSCC for their hard work in difficult times and hello to the HCPC. I’m sure we’ll get along just fine..