For the moment, this is unclear. However, the Government’s recent emphasis on the safety of children and young people are a good indicator as to what standards future registration processes will incorporate. They are currently in the process of establishing new assessments and accreditation systems, having rolled out an accreditation pilot this year for 1000 frontline children’s services workers.
Developed by Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler, the pilot accreditation test involved four stages –
1. Employer Endorsement – Children’s services social workers first have to be endorsed by their employer to take the test, based on observations of their practice and written work.
2. Online Test – Once put forward, all candidates will take an online test on legislation, procedures and child development, with each question having only one right answer.
3. Scenario-Based Online Assessment – Following this, candidates will undertake a scenario-based online assessment of their critical reasoning and decision-making skills, applying competencies set out in the knowledge and skills statement.
4. Practice Simulations – The candidate will be observed in three practice simulations before submitteing an essay discussing them, and justifying the decisions and actions they took.
The DfE has yet to decide on what the pass mark for these assessments will be, but almost all social workers who took the pilot assessments scored over 50%, the pass threshold for postgraduate and post-qualifying programmes. The vast majority of those tested also achieved over the 63% threshold usually set for teacher skillset assessments, meaning testing standards, while challenging, might not be as overly punitive as critics claim.
These plans – which were also part of Morgan’s proposals – will later see all workers, including practice supervisors and leaders, assessed against the Knowledge and Skills Statement developed by Trowler. They form the basis of what the Queen announced in her speech as part of the Children and Social Work bill, and Morgan hopes they will be implemented by 2020.
June Update: An announcement from ministers that a regulator will be in place by 2018 shows that both the plans and standards to which social workers shall be held may be formulated and formalised quicker than Morgan originally proposed.
November Update: The government has announced that any professional standards for social workers the new regulatory body may enforce must first be approved by the education and health secretaries. This move represents a compromise between organisations such as the LGA and the ADCS's concerns about independence and the government's desire to bring social work regulation in-house. It means the Government will still control professional standards overall, so it is likely professional standards will increase.
What About Adults' Services?
Though the pilot suggests children’s social workers will most likely have to go through further professional development whenever the new regulator is established, what will happen to adults’ services is currently unclear.
Whether or not there will be new, adults’ services-specific accreditation is unknown and currently a cause for concern. For example, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have argued that only establishing accreditation for children’s services will turn its adult counterpart into a second class service for those who fail to qualify for that accreditation.
So while it is clear that adults’ social workers will have to register, the standards to which they will be held are . Until – or indeed if – similar accreditation tests are unveiled for Adults’ Services, this perception that adults’ services is being neglected will likely remain. Debate is ongoing as to what changes will be made to adults’ services when this new regulator is established, but concrete facts and proposals are currently thin on the ground.
In the meantime, a good reference point for potential accreditation standards would be Lyn Romeo’s Knowledge and Skills Statement for Adults’ Services, and the trend toward generally increasing standards and more frequent assessments should also be taken into account. Also, the announcement that a new regulator will be supported by the DoH as well as the DfE implies that new standards will eventually be unveiled.
Do I Still Need To Renew My HCPC Registration in November 2016?
Yes, you do. The HCPC re-registration process occurs every two years, and the next one is due in November 2016. Plans for a new regulator are not in place yet, so until such a time that they are confirmed, all social workers are still subject to HCPC requirements.
It must be noted that the Queen’s Speech is simply an announcement of the Government’s plans – all bills announced will still have to be read multiple times before the House of Commons and Lords, which can be a lengthy process. As such, the Government expects the new regulator to be established by the end of the current Parliament in 2020.
What this means for re-registration in November 2018 is unclear, and depends on how quickly the Children and Social Work bill passes through Parliament, and the rolling out of future pilot schemes. However, the June announcement that ministers plan for social workers to be regulated by the Government by 2018 suggests that a new system might be in place for this re-registration process.
How Will This Affect Me?
All parties involved in creating this new regulator to replace the HCPC are hoping this will lead to a more unified system. Whether it will is debatable – BASW has criticised the government for attempting to split social work into two separate specialties – and in the short term, any changes will probably affect children’s services more.
Though many of the details are still unclear, the Government’s emphasis on the safety of children and young people and intention to establish new assessments and accreditation systems points to a greater impact on children’s services. For example, Trowler announced in early June that the piloted accreditation system previously described above will be rolled out across ‘whole workforces’ – including newly qualified social workers undertaking their assessed and supported year – in eight ‘Partner in Practice’ authorities listed below:
- Achieving for Children
- North Yorkshire
This rollout is a further step in assessing the impact of the assessments on a smaller scale before a wider expansion. This sample will also help determine whether the assessments will be mandatory or not. Whatever decision is made, you should expect the new regulator to play a massive part in its future implementation.
The above clearly shows children’s social workers will most likely have to go through further professional development whenever the new regulator is established. If you work in children’s services, we would highly recommend you keep up with any developments.
However, it must also be noted that while the government is very keen to create this new regulatory body and replace the HCPC, organising all its proposed functions into one body is going to take time. After previously being ambiguous on timescales beyond promising that the regulator will be operational by the end of this parliamentary term in 2020, the Government is now planning for it to be up-and-running by 2018. This could still be subject to further change.
When Will More Information Be Available?
Simply put, we don’t know yet. The HCPC Consultation on revised standards of proficiency for social workers closed on June 24th, but how their findings will inform the new regulator and when these findings will be released is unclear right now.
There has since been further news. Following on from the ministers' unveiling of plans to have a regulator in place by 2018, expect further announcements from the Government – specifically from Nicky Morgan, Isabelle Trowler and Lynn Romeo – further clarifying and detailing these plans.
November Update: the government has now revealed plans for the regulator, named Social Work England, to take over social work regulation from the HCPC in September 2018.
Where Can I Find Further Information?
For more information on the new regulator, follow the links below.
We will be keeping this post updated with new information as we receive it. Feel free to re-visit the article for re-visit the article to keep track of new developments.