Getting your degree is just the start of your career as a social worker. You've proved you've got what it takes so far, but training doesn't end there. You’ll need to keep on learning and ensure you're up to date with the latest legislation, research and practice. This takes place via continuing professional development (CPD). There are different frameworks for CPD across the UK, with different arrangements in place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
CPD for social workers in England
As a newly qualified social worker in England, your first year will be your assessed and supported year of employment (ASYE). You’ll get extra support from your manager in this time, and this will be based around the statement of knowledge and skills for child and family social work, which you’ll cover in your studies. Your employer will be funded to support you, so you won’t have to pay for any CPD in this time.
You’ll need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to practise as a social worker. The HCPC audits a sample of registered social workers to ensure that they have undertaken sufficient CPD to be eligible for ongoing registration. It’s essential that you keep a record of your CPD. Without this, you run the risk of losing your registration as a social worker. This would mean you wouldn’t be able to work.
Professional development for social workers at all levels is based on the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). This sets out the skills and knowledge you’re expected to have at different points in your career, from student level to management. You can use it to plan your CPD and map out your career path.
CPD doesn’t have to be a course. The PCF is designed to allow people to learn in different ways, including on the job and through reflection. However you decide to work on your CPD, you should work with your manager to map it against the PCF and what’s expected of you.
Social work training and development in Scotland
Social workers in Scotland are regulated by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) which registers you for five years at a time. As a newly qualified social worker in Scotland, you need to complete 24 days of post-registration training and learning (PRTL), which should be based on the continuous learning framework (CLF) and the expectations set out in the SSSC Codes of Practice.
You can choose how you learn – you don’t have to spend all this time on courses. For example, you could learn a new skill on the job, work with a mentor or reflect on a new concept after you’ve applied it in practice. Work with your manager to design a learning plan that supports your interests and that meets the expectations required of you.
Training required for qualified social workers in Wales
In Wales, social workers are registered and regulated by Social Care Wales. As a newly qualified social worker in Wales, you’re expected to follow the ‘First three years in practice’ framework, which sets out expectations of the skills and knowledge needed in this critical training period.
Following this, CPD should follow the expectations set out in the Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) Framework.
Maintaining your social work registration in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, social workers must register with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC). As a newly qualified social worker, you’ll start your career with your assessed year in employment (AYE), and must also do 90 hours of training and learning within your initial registration period.
Registration with the NISCC lasts for three years, and social workers must do 90 hours of CPD within each registration period. You’re responsible for your CPD throughout your career and you can choose how you learn during your CPD: learning can include seminars, training, reading, courses, teaching, research as well as other activities.