It was clear from the literature review that student registers are the exception, rather than the norm in professional regulation, both in the UK and elsewhere. Other mechanisms, such as robust standards for educators and placement supervisors, well executed student fitness to practise processes, and holding students to account through standards and guidance on conduct are more commonly used. The review also highlighted the need to educate students about their responsibilities as professionals in training.
- There is no HCPC register of all social work students
- There is a mechanism for referral to us where,
- in exceptional circumstances, an education provider requires an opinion on whether an applicant is of suitable character to be admitted to a programme.
- a student has been removed from a programme or has withdrawn from a programme following a complaint
- an education provider has not dealt with a credible complaint appropriately.
- Students who have complaints upheld via the scheme may be placed on a list which would prevent them from being admitted to, or participating in, a social work programme.
The scheme has several benefits. It provides a transitional ‘safety net’ of a kind that social work stakeholders have suggested is necessary. It will allow educators, employers, colleagues and members of the public, to refer their concerns to the regulator during the transition to HCPC standards. It is proportionate, in that it only affects those students and prospective students who are a cause for concern. It will send a clear message to educators that they are responsible for ensuring that student fitness to practise is managed and quality assured according to HCPC standards.
We have listened to the concerns expressed by social work stakeholders, and we are conscious of the huge changes that are underway in the social work profession. Our aim is to work with the social work community to drive up standards. HPC has a good track record in quality assuring education and training programmes through its standards of education and training and approvals process. Ultimately, these standards will apply across all social work programmes. But this will not happen overnight. The suitability scheme does not compromise the role or purpose of HPC’s standards, but does provide a proportionate mechanism to mitigate risk and allow time for change.
Anna van der Gaag