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Training and development during your career as a social worker

Training and development during your career as a social worker

Continuing professional development is important in social work. Find out what is expected of you after qualification in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Gaining your qualifications is just the start in forging your career as a social worker. You've proved you've got what it takes to be a social worker through your skills, knowledge and qualifications. But training doesn't end with qualification, and there are certain requirements to keep you developing and ensure you're up to date with the latest legislation, research and practice.

All social workers in England must undertaking continuing professional development if they wish to remain registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and continue to practise. The process for registering social workers varies across the UK and there are different arrangements in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Social workers in England are responsible for making sure that they meet the standards set by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) for continuing professional development (CPD). They are expected to undertake CPD activities and record them, but do not have to complete a set number of days of learning to meet the requirements. There are different requirements in place in other parts of the UK.

CPD for social workers in England

The HCPC carries out periodic audits of a sample of registered social workers to ensure that they have undertaken sufficient CPD to be eligible for ongoing registration. Social workers who are not registered with the HCPC are not entitled to practise.

The HCPC’s CPD standards say registrants must:

  • Maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD activities
  • Demonstrate that their CPD activities are a mixture of learning activities relevant to current or future practice
  • Seek to ensure that their CPD has contributed to the quality of their practice and service delivery
  • Seek to ensure that their CPD benefits the service user
  • Submit a written profile (which must be their own work and supported by evidence) explaining how they have met the standards for CPD.

Social workers are expected to keep an up-to-date, complete and ongoing personal record of their CPD activities. The HCPC does not ask to see the whole of this record when it carries out an audit. Instead it asks social workers to fill in a CPD profile which focuses on the last two years and includes a statement setting out how their CPD has met the HCPC’s standards, along with supporting evidence from their personal CPD record. This could take the format of a table setting out the date and type of each activity.

Your CPD should be relevant to your work. For example, if you are managing a team, your CPD could be based around your skills in appraising your team, supporting their development and financial planning.

Here are some examples the HCPC gives of CPD activities:

  • Work-based learning: reflecting on experiences, considering feedback from service users, being a member of a committee.
  • Professional activity: mentoring or teaching others, being an expert witness, giving presentations at conferences.
  • Formal education: going on courses, doing research, distance learning, planning or running a course.
  • Self-directed learning: reading articles, reviewing books and articles, updating knowledge through using the internet.

Social workers can meet the HCPC’s CPD requirements by undertaking a CPD scheme run by a professional body, employer, or other organisation, as long as this helps them to develop and meet the HCPC’s standards. The HCPC only audits social workers who have been registered for more than two years, in order to give them at least two years to build up evidence of their CPD activities.

The HCPC’s formal definition of CPD is: ‘a range of learning activities through which health and care professionals maintain and develop throughout their career to ensure that they retain their capacity to practice safely, effectively and legally within the evolving scope of practice’.

The Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE) for social workers in England

The Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE) is designed to support social workers in England who have recently qualified. It is not compulsory. Newly qualified social workers undertaking the ASYE should be given professional supervision and assessment by a qualified social worker as well as a reduced caseload and time for reflection.

There is no standard post-qualifying award structure in England at present, apart from in specialist mental health social work. However, many universities offer courses in partnership with employers to help social workers develop.

Social work training and development in Scotland

Social workers in Scotland are regulated by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) which registers them for a fixed period, after which they have to apply to have their registration renewed. Within the period of registration (typically three years), they have to complete 15 days of learning, which could include activities such as study, seminars, training courses, teaching or reading. Every registered social worker needs to keep records of their post registration training and learning (PRTL) and employers have to ensure that all of their staff are registered and meet the PRTL requirements. Employers are expected to discuss and plan with employees how this is to be achieved.

There is a range of qualifications at postgraduate level suitable for social workers in Scotland and more information about these is available from the SSSC.

Training required for qualified social workers in Wales

In Wales, social workers are registered and regulated by the Care Council for Wales. They are expected to undertake 15 days of post registration training and learning in the three-year registration period, after which it is necessary to apply for renewal.

In Wales, there is a specific programme for all qualified social workers called The Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) framework, and it is compulsory for all newly qualified social workers to take part.

Maintaining your social work registration in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, social workers are regulated by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and must do 90 hours of training and learning over the three-year registration period. The 90 hours could include seminars, training, reading, courses, teaching or other relevant activities.

Once social work students have successfully completed their degree course, they are required to complete an Assessed Year in Employment (AYE) as part of the requirement for continuing registration. This involved supervision by a registered qualified social worker.

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