Final Social Work England standards issued

6 August 2019

The final Social Work England professional standards have been issued, along with rules and standards covering social work education, registration and fitness to practise.

Social Work England is due to take over regulatory duties from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) on 2 December. It was set up just under a year ago and, in February this year, it consulted on its rules and standards for the social work profession.

The rules underpin the work of Social Work England as the new specialist regulator, and detail what can be expected from the regulator across registration, education and training, and fitness to practise. The standards set out what is expected from social workers, and of those who educate and train people who want to join the profession.

The new standards contain a number of amendments made in response to a consultation held during the spring. Changes include the removal of a duty to report the impact of resources on safe practice. The new regulator said this move was prompted by fears that the requirement would put too much pressure on practitioners. Clause 6.6 of the final standards contains a more broad-brush requirement that social workers must “declare to the appropriate authority and Social Work England anything that might affect my ability to do my job competently or may affect my fitness to practise”.

The fitness to practise rules were also changed following concerns over the prospect of social workers not sitting on panels.

The professional standards include some amended language regarding promoting social justice, valuing families and communities, respecting dignity and privacy and avoiding conflicts of interest.

In addition, there is a new clause relating to “using assessment skills to respond quickly to dangerous situations and take any necessary protective action”.

The section on professional development contains more detail and includes a requirement to incorporate feedback “from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice”.

Social Work England Executive Director of Standards Sarah Blackmore said changes were implemented in response to organisations including the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Unison, as well as individual social workers.

Social Work England's report on the consultation process confirmed that further guidance documentation would be issued in due course. It said that publishing plain-English explanations of the fitness to practise process would be “helpful”.

The report, "Reshaping Standards, Enabling Change Consultation Response", is available at socialworkengland.org.uk.