30 March 2017

Why the Standards of proficiency for social workers in England are so important

Social worker and HCPC Council member Robert Templeton discusses the challenges of social work regulation and the professional importance of a strong set of Standards of Proficiency.


One of the challenges for professional social work regulation is that for the most part the public, the media and the government are only aware of its importance when things go wrong. This is due to a variety of reasons perhaps one being the regulatory landscape, which is complicated and often shrouded in impenetrable language. However the ideas behind professional regulation are simple, it is about protecting the public, in other words stopping bad things from happening.

The Heath and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Standards of proficiency for social workers in England play an important role in public protection as they establish threshold standards necessary for safe and effective practice. They set out what all social workers in England should know, understand and be able to do when they complete their social work training so that they can register with the HCPC. They set clear expectations of a social worker’s knowledge and abilities when they start practicing. Each profession regulated by HCPC has a set of proficiency standards, which run alongside the overarching standards of standards of conduct, performance and ethics and standards for continuing professional development, which apply to all the professions HCPC regulates.

The standards of proficiency for Social Workers in England were first published in 2012 prior to the opening of the HCPC Register on 1 August 2012. HCPC committed to reviewing the standards of proficiency once they had concluded a three-year programme of visits to pre-registration education and training programmes previously approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

The key challenge when writing and reviewing these standards is to ensure they reflect the values of social work, the complexity of practice and diversity of contexts and settings in which social workers practice. They must also reflect existing requirements and training provisions. Under the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 legislation, registration with the HCPC means that someone is able to use the protected title ‘social worker’. As a result, the standards of proficiency describe the knowledge and skills needed to practise as a newly qualified social worker at a threshold level.

There are similar standards published by other organisations, whilst complementary, they often have a different purpose. For example since the closure of The College of Social Work the British Association of Social Workers now own the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Whilst the standards of proficiency are about the threshold required at entry to the profession, the PCF is designed to support social workers throughout their careers. The PCF acts as an overarching framework by describing the capabilities expected of a social worker at key career stages. These include professionalism, values and ethics, knowledge, intervention and skills and professional leadership. There is some overlap with the standards of proficiency because the PCF includes a description of the competencies expected by the end of a social work student’s last placement.

There is also the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) published by the Chief Social Workers for Children and Families and for Adults. In contrast to the standards of proficiency they describe the knowledge and abilities expected of social workers who work with children and families, and those who work with adults. They describe what is required by the end of a newly qualified social worker’s first year in practice - the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).

As part of the review, HCPC looked at the PCF and KSS to identify whether there were any gaps in the standards of proficiency or any existing standards that should be amended. The standards were also compared to those the HCPC had recently reviewed for the other professions, such a Psychologists and Occupational Therapists, to check whether there were any changes made which would be equally applicable to the social work standards.

Under the Children and Social Work Bill regulation of social workers in England will move from the HCPC to become the responsibility of a new organisation called Social Work England. However, until this happens HCPC continues to be our regulator.  This means HCPC’s Standards of proficiency together with the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and the standards for continuing professional development are the standards which every registrant must meet in order to become registered, and must continue to meet in order to maintain their registration. You can find more information on the government’s proposed changes here.

16 January 2017

Revised social worker SOPs: What are they and what’s changed?

Hollie Latham, HCPC Policy Officer talks about the revised Standards of proficiency (SOPs) for social workers in England, how they were reviewed and what the changes mean for registrants.

What are the SOPs?
The HCPC have revised the Standards of proficiency for social workers in England. The standards set out the threshold knowledge, understanding and skills required for a social worker at entry to the Register. The main way we use these standards is when we approve pre-registration social work programmes which lead to registration with us.
Once registered, we expect all social workers to continue to meet the standards which are relevant to their scope of practice.

How did we review them?
These standards were first published in 2012, and we review them regularly. The most recent review included engaging with stakeholders such as professional bodies, employers, education providers, charities, service users and carers and newly qualified social workers via surveys and group discussion sessions. We then held a three month long public consultation and received 125 responses.
What’s changed?
 There are a limited number of changes to the document itself, including some minor amendments to standards, and a small number of new standards in order to reflect developments in both education and practice.

New standards include:
• Be able to identify and apply strategies to build professional resilience.
• Understand the principles of information governance and be aware of the safe and effective use of health and social care information.
• Understand the concept of leadership and its application to practice.

What does this mean for social workers?
Social workers need to continue to meet the standards of proficiency which are relevant to their particular scope of practice. However, we don’t dictate how they should do so. There is generally more than one way in which each standards can be met and the way in which registrants meet them may change over time due to technology and evolving methods of practice.

We often receive questions from registrants concerned they may not meet our standards. As an autonomous professional you need to make informed and reasoned decisions about your practice. This can mean seeking advice or support from education providers, employers, colleagues, professional bodies, unions and others. So long as registrants do this and can justify their decisions in practice if asked, it is very unlikely that a registered social worker would not meet our standards.

05 December 2016

A breakdown of the HCPC Fitness to Practise Annual Report 2016

John Barwick, Head of Fitness to Practise Operations at HCPC, discusses the findings presented in this year’s Fitness to Practise (FtP) Annual Report and highlights key areas of work and activities undertaken by our FtP department.

The Fitness to Practise Annual Report 2016 covers the period of 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016. The report provides information about the way our FtP department deals with allegations against our registrant’s fitness to practise their profession.

Here, we provide an overview of the statistics relating to those allegations, the work we do in progressing cases through our FtP process and highlight key activities undertaken in order to continually improve and review our procedures.

In 2015-16, the number of individuals on our register increased by 3.3 per cent from 2014-15. However over the same period there was a decrease of 1.9 per cent in the number of new cases, with 2,127 cases received in total. That equates to 0.62 per cent of our registrants, or one in 162, being subject to concerns.

In 2015-16:
• 1,661 cases were closed before they were considered by a panel of the HCPC’s Investigating Committee (ICP) as they did not meet our Standard of Acceptance.
• 787 cases were considered by an ICP.
• 320 final hearings were concluded. Of these, 84 were discontinued or not well founded, five resulted in no further action and two resulted in the registrant being removed from the register due to fraudulent /incorrect entry. Imposed sanctions included 33 cautions, 42 conditions of practise orders, 60 suspensions and 69 strike-offs. 25 cases resulted in voluntary removal.
• 346 interim order and review hearings were concluded.

The number of cases considered by an ICP and the number of final hearings decreased from 2014-15. This reflects the increase in the number of cases that were closed at the initial stages of the fitness to practise process for not meeting the standard of acceptance, and the fact that there was a higher volume of cases going to an ICP in 2014-15 following a 25 per cent increase in the number of cases received in 2013-14.

Key areas of work and activities undertaken in 2015-16

• We have completed a review of our Standard of acceptance policy, the purpose of the review was to ensure the policy reflected the changing nature of the cases we receive. We also developed a Standard of acceptance explained fact sheet.
• We have updated our referral forms to provide more guidance on the information that should be provided by the complainant. We have also updated our How to raise a concern brochure.
• A continued focus on developing information sources for employers has been undertaken, with the revision of our brochure for employers and the development of FtP specific website content.
• We signed a new Memoranda of Understanding with NHS Protect and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority in Northern Ireland.
• In January 2016 we acquired a new building which now provides a dedicated hearings centre for FtP hearings.

Future work

• We have been developing proposals for further enhancing the independence of the adjudications which will be considered by HCPC’s Council in 2016–17.
• Ensuring the continued timely progression and conclusion of cases, whilst ensuring ongoing public protection, will be a strategic focus for 2016–17. The primary focus of our workplan in the coming year is the introduction of greater specialisation in the management of cases through the FtP process.
• We will continue engagement with organisations where we have a common objective of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of members of the public.
• We will continue to develop our case study material as well as updating our What happens if a concern is raised about me? brochure.

14 November 2016

Have you been selected for CPD? - Part Two

 

Here is the final blog piece on commonly asked questions about continuing professional development (CPD) and the HCPC audit process from three of our CPD Assessors Felicity Court, Dr Mick Harper and Emma Barclay.
 

What CPD advice would you give somebody even if they have not been selected for audit?
  • Make sure you have a system in place for recording a log / list of all the CPD activities you do. For example I have a shortcut on my desktop to a simple table where I can add a brief description of CPD activities as they occur. It’s best to be ready, have a system that works for you in your day to day work. If your professional body has a mechanism for doing this then make use of it.
  • A few minutes (e.g. once a month) can pay dividends if you are selected for CPD assessment. It also means you do not have to rely on your memory/trawling through old diaries to recall what you have done over a two year period!
  • When recording CPD think broadly about the range of learning activities this can include. It is easy to get ‘stuck’ on course attendance’ but assessors are very interested to read about many other examples of activities that illustrate reflective practice. This can be as simple as describing a conversation you had with a colleague that may have challenged your thinking, led you to explore the evidence base and may then have led to a change in practice.
What would you recommend to a registrant who says they do not have time to complete CPD activities on top of their daily workload?
  • The bottom line is that registrants must undertake CPD to stay registered with us and there are CPD standards that must be adhered to. 
  • We know that everyone is busy at work these days however there is also the fact we have a duty of care to our patients and service users to ensure that we maintain our professional skills and stay abreast of developments in our areas of work. 
  • You'll be surprised how many things you do every week that contribute to your CPD that you may not be recognising so make sure you familiarise yourself with the examples provided at the back of the HCPC CPD guide. So it could be a conversation about new techniques / processes; new equipment that you have been taught on or an article that has been shared with you but of course it doesn’t have to be a specific task. CPD is what it is to you as an individual as long as it seeks to benefit you in your role and the services users you engage with.
What advice would you give someone who says their employer does not give them much time off to complete CPD activities?
  • It is important that employers are made aware that maintaining CPD is a key aspect of re-registration and should be supported if their employees are to meet the necessary standards. As a Registrant you have the responsibility to ensure that you continue to meet the standards and are entitled to perform your role and enjoy your protected title.
  • It’s a common misconception that your employer has responsibility to ensure that you continue to meet your regulatory standards, or to offer you courses for your own CPD or time to undertake your own activities. Make sure you use any 1:1’s or appraisals to identify and capture your learning needs and then your employer is perhaps more likely to support you to take some time to complete them. That said be savvy and organised and make sure you are capturing all the day to day CPD activities.
  •  Think of discussions you may have with colleagues that lead you to trying a new method/approach with a patient or perhaps internet searches you may do to investigate equipment solutions for a patient along with briefings you may be sent by email that alter your practice in some way.

What would you say to a registrant if they asked whether they are expected to attend expensive courses as a part of their CPD activity?
  • It’s important to remember that assessors are looking for a mixture of learning activities and many of them have no cost at all.
  • It’s not necessary to attend expensive courses. There are plenty of other ways to meet the CPD standards. Be creative. Think of things like job shadowing, e-learning, case discussions and reading you may have done. The smallest activities often impact on the registrant’s knowledge, ability and service delivery. Reading an article and reflecting on your role, making changes based on evidence to benefit you and the service user is as legitimate an activity as a 5-day conference.
What do you think the benefits of completing CPD are?
  • Colleagues who have been selected have told me that after the initial ‘why me?!” response, they have actually found that reflecting on their achievements over the previous two year cycle has proved an affirming process.
  • It can be a great way of maintaining your confidence, motivation and skill as a health care professional. Embrace it and recognise it as part of your daily work and hopefully it won't seem like just another job on the do list! Whatever stage we may be at in our careers it is important that we do not ‘stagnate’ in our practice.
  • We have a great responsibility to discharge our professional duties to our service users in an accepted, safe and up-to-date way and CPD supports us to do this. In addition, I see registrants who come into annual reviews at work and take in their CPD profiles as a starting point to discuss their careers. This is a fantastic way of showing your manager that you know your own strengths and limitations and demonstrates that you have thought out your personal future needs. You are much more likely to be supported by employers if you take control of your own career in this way.
There are a range of resources available to support registrants undertaking CPD on our dedicated webpages and on our YouTube channel, visit www.hcpc-uk.org/cpd.
 


18 October 2016

Have you been selected for a CPD audit? - Part One

 We put some of our more commonly asked questions from registrants about continuing professional development (CPD) and the HCPC audit process to three of our CPD Assessors Felicity Court, Dr Mick Harper and Emma Barclay. Here’s what they had to say.
 



What are your top tips for Registrants who have been selected for audit and who are about to embark on the process of submitting their CPD profile?

•  Firstly, it’s important not to panic. The process is not designed to catch you out. Before you begin, have a look on the HCPC website as there is a lot of great information to help you including sample profiles and video tutorials. And make sure that you refer to the ‘CPD and your registration’ document.

•  This is your chance to reflect on your learning over the last 2 years. You'll probably surprise yourself at how much you have done and learnt. Read the guidance carefully to ensure you send everything required in and take time to select a variety of activities to best demonstrate how you've met the 5 standards for CPD (link to standards). You should have a long list of all of your CPD activities that span the last two years (standard 1).

•  But ultimately less is more, select 3-4 examples of CPD activities from your list, make sure they are different types of CPD activities (standard 2) and then discuss them in relation to standards 3 and 4. Standard 5 is complete when you submit your profile.

Have you noted any improvements to the quality of profiles received?

•  The standard has always been high and we have seen it improve with each two yearly ‘round’ of assessment. A change is that the number of CPD profiles submitted electronically has increased considerably.

•  Statistics show us that many registrants pass first time. However there are still a few registrants who make some simple easily avoidable mistakes.

•  To find out about the CPD Audit facts and figures, have a look at the recently published CPD Report 2013-15 and infographic.

What do you look for when assessing a CPD profile?

•  Firstly, that it is a genuine attempt to demonstrate the standards and conduct CPD. I look for a well-structured and easy to read profile. This helps me to pick out the evidence for each of the standards and be assured the registrant has met all the standards. Often ‘less is more’. Good profiles are just a few pages long.

•  If the profile contains a 2-year list of CPD activities that are a range of different types of learning I can immediately tick standards 1 and 2. Ideally around half a dozen examples usually gives the assessors a clear picture of how the registrant has benefited from the CPD activities to see how they meet Standards 3 and 4.

•  If a particular course for example has been useful it is sufficient to enclose evidence of attendance alongside a brief programme of what was covered. We do not need to see copies of every handout you were given over a 3 day period. 

•  Ultimately we are looking for evidence of your reflections on what you learned, how you feel it has benefitted your practice and ultimately helped your service users.

What common mistakes do you see when assessing CPD profiles?

•  Not keeping or providing a dated list of all CPD activities undertaken during the registration period as part of the submitted profile. It is obvious to assessors where registrants haven’t maintained their list and are filling it in from memory.

•  It can be really frustrating if a profile is well presented but without this list. The registrant will then have to be asked for further information by the assessors as we are unable to see evidence that the registrant has participated regularly in CPD and maintained a record of this.

•  Not explicitly describing the benefits that an activity has had to the registrant and to the service users they work with. Sometimes it seems that the registrant assumes the assessor will ‘read between the lines’ when in fact we need the registrant to state all the benefits however obvious they might seem to you.

•  Read standards 3 and 4 carefully and make sure your examples describe how you have met both of these standards. A registrant can sometimes focus on one more than another leading to a request for further information.

•  Secondly, sometimes registrants try to tell us too much and this dilutes the quality of their profile, remember to just select 3-4 CPD activities that span the 2-year cycle. Be explicit-how did that activity make you better in your role, how did it benefit service users and what service users were they?

There are a range of resources available to support registrants undertaking CPD on our dedicated webpages and on our YouTube channel, visit www.hcpc-uk.org/cpd.

04 October 2016

The role of the HCPC fitness to practise panel


Registered Paramedic Mark Woolcock explains that the fitness to practise panel is there to determine whether an HCPC registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

During a hearing, evidence is put forward by the HCPC and the registrant, and witnesses can be questioned. The panel will then listen, evaluate and place weight on the evidence it hears before deciding whether any action needs to be taken in order to protect the public.

The Panel doesn’t represent the HCPC and we act independently of them. A fitness to practise panel is made up of three members: A chairperson who leads the hearing and speaks for the panel, a lay person who is not registered with the HCPC and a registrant member from the same profession as the person being investigated.

My role as a paramedic registrant panel member is to evaluate all available information and evidence, and assist the panel in making an objective and informed decision. I feel it is a very privileged position to be in. I have great a responsibility to ensure continued public protection and confidence in the profession, while simultaneously providing an intuitive and empirical perspective to help understand the role of the registrant. My advice to anyone involved in a process is to always attend the hearing. The panel want to hear what everyone has to say and I cannot emphasise enough how much value the panel place on attendance.

The panel work usually starts months in advance; the Scheduling Team will sort out panel member’s availability. Once a date is confirmed, the office will ensure that no conflict of interest exists and that the panel members have no involvement with parties in the case.

Once confirmed, the papers will be sent out in good time. I do two readings: firstly when the papers have arrived so I can familiarise myself with the parties (again to finally ensure no conflict of interest) and also to obtain an understanding of the issues. My final reading is the day before the panel meets, and I find this enables me to have a really good handle on all of the information and details.

After every single hearing or panel activity I have been involved in, I am always left with a huge sense of contributing to a fair and just process and the sole objective is to allow the truth to be heard.
I applied for this role because I have a strong professional conscience and believe whole-heartedly in our profession and the people carrying out our role. It would be too easy to say my only objective was to ensure continued public safety, but I do believe strongly in ensuring that any registrant going through a fitness to practise process is supported and measured against only the most objective standard. I want registrants to believe the process is fair and just, and have confidence in the panel members experience and integrity.

21 September 2016

Key findings from the continuing professional development (CPD) audit report for 2013-2015



Natalie Berrie, HCPC Registration Manager highlights the key findings from the continuing professional development (CPD) audit report for 2013-2015.
This is the fourth report on our CPD audits and we are delighted that, once again, the results are very positive. Our registrants are becoming increasingly familiar with the CPD process and our Standards are also being well understood.

During the period 2013-2015 we randomly selected 8,164 registrants across all 16 professions regulated by the HCPC, to submit their CPD profiles. In the majority of cases the quality was high, with registrants demonstrating they had met the Standards.
 
Here are our top 7 observations from this year’s report:
 
1.    Nearly 81% of profiles met the CPD standards, demonstrating links between ongoing learning and benefits to practice and service users.
 
2.    No registrants were removed because their profile was assessed as not meeting the Standards.  
 
3.    Most of the profiles submitted were of a high standard and accepted by our assessors after their first assessment. This is particularly good news as it shows that despite the growth in our Register and the number of profiles submitted, registrants are continuing to maintain these higher standards.
 
4.    Only a small 0.3 per cent, that’s 22 people of the 8,164 selected for audit, were removed from the Register. The decision to remove those individuals was made because they had failed to submit either a CPD profile or provide further information in support of their profile despite being given several opportunities to do so.
 
5.    Our initial analysis is that there are no significant differences between outcomes in different professions. This was the first time social workers were audited and the report has shown that their results are in line with the other professions.
 
6.    Out of the fifteen professions that have been audited more than once, nine have seen an increase in the number of profiles accepted compared to their previous audit.
 
7.    10.7 per cent of those selected chose to defer their audit profile. This was consistent with the level of registrants who deferred in our previous report. The most common reasons for deferring were being, or having been on maternity leave, or due to health issues. 
 
We are currently undertaking a review of our CPD process and the results of this report will be used to help inform our future guidance which will be consulted on in October 2016.
Whenever a profession renews its registration, we randomly audit the CPD of 2.5 per cent of registrants from that profession. Those that are selected must submit a CPD profile to show how they met our Standards. This is an on-going requirement for everyone on the Register to be able to practise in their chosen profession.
If you have been selected for CPD and have concerns about going through process of submitting your profile, take a look at our dedicated webpages which have a range of resources designed to help.
 
Visit www.hcpc-uk.org/registrants/cpd for more information.