22 January 2016

Reviewing the Standards of proficiency for social workers in England

Chair of our Education and Training Committee, Joy Tweed, highlights discussions from our recent event which contributed to our current review of the Standards of proficiency for social workers in England. 

On Thursday 21 January I had the privilege to chair an event at the HCPC which brought together a broad range of stakeholders from within the social work community, including educators, managers, learning and development professionals and newly qualified social workers.

The reason for our meeting? To discuss the Standards of proficiency for social workers in England. These standards, which set out the threshold entry level to the Register, are essential to regulation. They articulate our expectations of the skills and knowledge required for safe and effective practise and we use them across our regulatory processes specifically in education, fitness to practise and registration.

The review is part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring our Standards are relevant, up-to-date and fit for purpose. The review is particularly timely now that we have completed our three year programme of approval of social work education programmes. We can also take into account changes in the sectors since the standards were last published – for example, the Knowledge and Skills statements published by the Chief Social Workers for Children and Adults.

Our event was part of a broader programme of work to engage with the sector. We plan to consult on proposed revised standards and publish them later this year. 

As part of the review, we have already benefited from the feedback of educators, HCPC visitors and registration assessors, practice placement educators, service users and carers and others including principal social workers and managers.

The feedback from this work and our event is remarkably similar. Some stakeholders want us to better articulate the relationship between our standards and other frameworks like the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) and the Knowledge and Skills Statements. Others were keen for us to ensure that the standards were more explicit about social work values. At the event, we discussed the need to include specific references on leadership and strengthen our wording on supervision and reflection as well as emotional resilience. We told participants about the findings of a piece of work that Shaping our lives did on our behalf, speaking with service users and carers about their experiences and perspectives on the Standards. Service users and carers emphasised the importance of good communication to developing an effective relationship between social worker and client, one that ensured partnership in decision making.

Overall, however, the overwhelming majority of individuals we have spoken to so far agreed that the existing Standards of proficiency are clear and relevant to social workers in England and that few changes are required. This is very encouraging as we see these Standards playing a key role in generating the next generation of professionals.

What struck me about our event was the breadth of involvement across the sector and the engagement by very busy people who were all committed, passionate and enthusiastic about helping us to make these very important Standards relate to the work of social workers every day.

This is just the start of the process. There will be an opportunity for the wider social work community to provide their feedback when we consult on the revised draft standards later in the year.

In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone involved so far for taking time out of their busy lives and so readily sharing their skills and knowledge.

Joy Tweed
Chair, Education and Training Committee   

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