The Health and Care Professions Council

On 1st August this year, the HPC (Health Professions Council) will change its name to the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council), and will become the regulatory body for registered social workers, replacing the GSCC in this role.

An information event held in Bristol on 23rd May was well presented by Annie Turner (Council Member and OT), Michael Guthrie (Director of Policy Standards), Marc Seale (Chief Executive and Registrar) and Jacqueline Ladds (Director of Communication).  A background to the transfer was given and the process of renewal of registration for social workers was outlined.  Standards of education and training, proficiency, conduct performance and ethics were outlined.

Concern was expressed by attendees about CPD (Continuing Professional Development) including the future of the Post Qualifying Award which will not transfer to the HCPC.  The College of Social Work Website (Media Release 04 07 11) states that “As the changes in the Health and Social Care Bill are put in place there is a risk that effective CPD training is lost or that employers and social workers will lose confidence”.

Currently, the GSCC requires a minimum of 90 hours of PRTL (Post Registration Training and Learning) over the three year registration period and the evidence for this must be submitted by everyone when they re-register.  Just to compare, the Royal College of Psychiatry recommends at least 50 hours per year of CPD for psychiatrists.  Under the HCPC there will be no minimum hours required for CPD for registered social workers and evidence does not need to be submitted at re-registration.  Instead a random sample of 2.5% of professionals will be asked to submit their evidence, to include two short written pieces to demonstrate their current social work practice and how their learning has developed their practice.

This change rang alarm bells for many judging by the questions asked and comments made by those social workers present at the information event.  Concerns were raised that this will let employers ‘off the hook’ (in terms of responsibility for their employees professional development) leading to a reduction in training opportunities for social workers, in an economic climate where cuts are being made left, right and centre.  Whether through reflection, self-learning or formal training, how will over worked and under-valued social workers ensure they have sufficient time to develop their practice?  My personal experience has been that under pressure from their case loads, some social workers fail to attend training events they are booked onto because they feel unable to prioritise their own professional development above the immediate needs of the people they work with.

The challenge for those that have fallen into this trap and for all social workers in permanent posts is that they will move nearer to those of us who work independently.  Independents have always had no choice but to find ways of ensuring that we meet the requirements of CPD. Not to do so means the risk of loss off registration and therefore livelihood. Enlightened employers will of course recognise the need to support their professional staff to remain qualified to practice and to maintain their skills and competency; not doing so will also run the risk of falling foul of the Care Quality Commission.


Helen Jackson Brown

Registered Social Worker