Training and development during your career as a social worker

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

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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 knowledge and skills required for your area of 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 Social Work England to practise as a social worker. 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, carry out reading in a professional area of interest or attend a webinar. The SSSC website has more information about what qualifies. 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. For your first three years as a newly qualified social worker in Wales, you’re expected to follow the consolidation plan for social workers, which is the first part of Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) continues beyond this, and ‘toolkits’ for each type of social work, which give guidance for planning your professional development, are available on the Social Care Wales website.

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 or five 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.

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