Social workers in the NHS

Patient and therapist

17 / 6 / 2014 2.42pm

This page contains information for NHS organisations that employ social workers.   Social workers predominantly work with adults, children and families outside of health settings but increasingly they can be found working in the NHS either employed directly or seconded from local authorities. Recent data shows that there are around 1,800 social workers working in the NHS.

Social work: need to know

Recent developments in the world of social work, which may be of interest to you include;

Social work regulation

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) (formerly the Health Professions Council), is now responsible for the regulation of social workers in England.

The HCPC is responsible for setting standards, approving and monitoring education and training programmes for social workers in England, and investigating concerns raised about them.

Social workers have to meet the HCPC standards of proficiency which are competency standards relevant to their area of practice. They also have to meet the standards of conduct, performance and ethics.

These are overarching standards that apply to all of the 16 health and care professions HCPC regulates. Both sets of HCPC standards play a key role in ensuring public protection by making sure that social workers in England will have the competency, knowledge, values and behaviour expected of them by members of the public and employers alike. Find out more about social worker standards here.

For advice on employer responsibilities in terms of registration renewal and Continuing Professional Development among other things, visit the HCPC website.

Driving up standards in social work

The College of Social Work is the professional body for social work. It was established in 2012, following a major review of social work, to represent and support the social work profession. Among numerous other roles, it works with the HCPC to hold the standards for the profession and to support and enable its members to meet those standards.

The recently introduced Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) helps newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) to develop their skills, knowledge and capability and strengthen their professional confidence. It provides them with access to regular and focused support during their first year of employment.

The ASYE is open to NQSWs in the private and voluntary sectors, as well as the statutory sector. It is based on the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) for social work and is certificated by the College of Social Work (TCSW). It is being implemented jointly by the Department for Education and Skills for Care. Find out more on the Skills for Care website.

Employer standards

The Local Government Association (LGA) has developed a set of employer standards to help employers measure and improve their support of social workers. These are divided into four parts:
Continuing Professional Development; Health and Safety; Workforce planning, and Supervision.

Access the employer standards and guidance about how to implement them, on the LGA website.

What does this mean for you?

As NHS and health employers of social workers, you will need to understand what these standards mean for you. You will need to support your social workers to ensure they meet the requirements of their regulator, the HCPC. It is likely that system regulators will use the employers' standards during their assessments of organisations. We would therefore recommend that organisations review whether current systems and processes would meet these standards. 

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