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In order to practice as a social worker in the UK, you have to be registered with a regulatory body. This is because ‘social worker’ is a protected title. This means it is protected by law, and anybody practicing without being professionally registered may face prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.
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To be eligible for social work registration, you first need to make sure you are professionally qualified. The qualifications required to be a social worker can vary – you can have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or an equivalent diploma.
It is also vitally important that you are aware of the national landscape regarding regulators. There are currently four regulators in the UK, one for each country. They are –
Depending on the country in which you are working, you will need to be registered with the relevant regulator. Please note that your registration will not carry over between these bodies if you move country, meaning you will need to complete a new registration process.
This process will involve ensuring you meet the requirements of the relevant regulator and that you are suitable to work with vulnerable children and adults. The latter is verified by the Disclosure and Barring Service, which checks if you have any prior convictions that would make working with these groups unsuitable.
As well as maintaining a register of social workers who are able to practice, the regulatory bodies listed above investigate complaints of professional misconduct. Pending a hearing and the proving of any allegation, they have the power to permanently or temporarily remove you from the register, preventing you from practicing.
Under current arrangements, all social workers must re-register after a set period of time, depending on the regulator. The HCPC requires social workers to re-register every two years, the CCW every three years, the NISCC either every three or five years, and the SSSC every five years.
This re-registration involves submitting proof of continuous profession development, or CPD. All social workers are required to spend a set number of hours facilitating their CPD, which varies depending on seniority, experience and regulator.
Please note that the government is currently exploring plans to give the HCPC's social work regulation duties over to a sector-specific body. This regulator is likely to be closer to government and will increase standards regarding the re-registration process.