We are consulting on proposed changes to our requirements for carrying out and recording continuing professional development (CPD).
Continuing professional development consultation
Published: 20 May 2021
- How we got here
- Proposed CPD process
- Impact assessment
- How to respond
- Summary of consultation questions
- What happens next?
- Annex A: proposed CPD recording form
We are consulting on proposed changes to our requirements for carrying out and recording continuing professional development (CPD). CPD is part of the annual process social workers do to demonstrate their fitness to practise and remain on the social work register.
CPD is the reflection and learning activity that social workers do to improve their practice and keep it up to date. As part of our regulations and registration rules [note 1], social workers are required to record CPD. This is detailed in standard 4 of our professional standards, which outlines the areas that social workers need to consider when doing their CPD.
We have been clear that we would use our first year of regulation as an opportunity to learn more about social workers and their CPD; what learning they undertake, how they record, how they reflect, and how their learning positively influences their practice. Additionally, we committed to making incremental changes to our CPD requirements for social workers to maintain their registration.
Our CPD requirements are an important part of our work to assure public confidence in the social work profession and uphold public protection. CPD provides evidence of social workers’ personal development and reflection, which is critical to developing and sustaining safe and effective practice.
Through our approach, we’re keen to make clear that the CPD social workers are doing in their roles and as part of their ongoing professional development is suitable for recording on their Social Work England online account. We hope that this approach supports learning that has value to the social worker, and is relevant to their individual, professional experience.
The proposals set out in this consultation include what CPD we expect social workers to demonstrate when renewing their registration, how we will assess a sample of CPD records, and what steps we propose when assessed CPD does not meet our requirements.
As a result of this consultation, we will update and refine our guidance to support social workers to meet our requirements. We will publish our consultation response and updated policy in autumn 2021. The new requirements will come into effect from 1 December 2021.
Note 1: The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4) and Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54.
How we got here
The feedback from the workshops was broadly supportive of our proposals, and made clear that:
- the focus of CPD should remain on reflection and impact on practice.
- a small increase in the amount of CPD required would be positive.
- more direction on CPD is required from Social Work England, but social workers welcome the approach that CPD may consist of a wide variety of activities.
- social workers should engage in peer discussions about their CPD reflections.
- social workers are comfortable with the online CPD forms, but Social Work England should look at how to simplify them.
- social workers who do not meet our CPD requirements during validation should be required to provide further evidence of their CPD.
Proposed CPD process
We have set out below the current CPD process, along with the proposed changes to requirements that would come into effect on 1 December 2021.
Based on feedback from pre-consultation engagement and in line with our commitment to make incremental changes to our requirements, we propose to increase the required amount of CPD that a social worker must record each year to 2 pieces. The CPD must demonstrate that the social worker has reflected on their learning and describe the impact that it has had on their practice.
During our first year as regulator, social workers told us that they wanted more direction from Social Work England on what CPD they should do. This message was repeated at the pre-consultation workshops that we held, and in the YouGov research we published in May 2021. There is a balance to be struck between social workers using their professional judgement to identify CPD that meets their development needs, and Social Work England providing sufficient guidance on what we are looking for in this important professional process.
To retain flexibility in the requirements, we propose that one of the 2 pieces of CPD recorded each year should be on a broad theme that is determined by Social Work England. The focus and theme of the second piece of CPD will continue to be at the social worker’s discretion. This enables us to give some direction to social workers based on the insight we have about social work practice in England, while maintaining a degree of flexibility for those who benefit from the freedom to choose their CPD focus.
For the themed piece of CPD, we propose setting the theme based on our insight into social work practice, or areas of practice that have emerged as a concern through our regulatory activity. This theme will have sufficient scope to recognise learning from those on the register who practise in a range of different settings. Examples of themes could include improving communication, having a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, or understanding changes to legislation. We intend to review the theme annually. As part of this consultation, we are seeking views on what broad themes could be beneficial.
Question 1: To what extent do you agree that we should increase the number of pieces of CPD from one to 2?
Question 2: To what extent do you agree that we should set a broad theme for one of the 2 pieces of required CPD?
Question 3: What broad themes should we consider?
In line with our rules, we will continue to require social workers to record CPD in their Social Work England online account.
At the end of the registration renewal period, the CPD recorded in the online account will be used to determine whether a social worker continues to meet professional standard 4, the standard relating to CPD, and is able to renew their registration. This means we can provide assurance to the public that all social workers on the register have carried out CPD over the past registration year.
Social workers told us that they wanted a short, simple form to record their CPD, moving away from the current options of the unstructured and structured form. Therefore, we propose to update the online account and provide a single CPD form. It will retain the option to upload attachments, although we will make clear that this is not mandatory. A template of the questions that we propose to include in the new form is included at annex A.
Professional standard 4.1 requires social workers to reflect on feedback from a range of sources, whilst standard 4.5 requires them to contribute to an open learning culture in the workplace.
However, it has become clear through 2 successive research initiatives and a series of online CPD workshops that many social workers do not feel supported to do CPD in the workplace. We recognise that accessing resources, time and expert support is a challenge for many social workers, and the provision of learning opportunities in the workplace does not always match the needs of social work professionals.
Standard 4 outlines the different learning opportunities that social workers require access to, and support for, in order to maintain safe and effective practice. Social workers continue to highlight to us directly, and to our independent research partners, the importance of supervision with managers and peers as they reflect on, challenge and progress through their work to support people.
To reinforce the importance of reflection and supervision, we propose to require a social worker to confirm they have spoken with a manager or social work peer about the impact that learning has had on their practice when recording CPD. This person will need to be someone familiar to the social worker who has knowledge of social work practice. We propose defining this person as a manager or registered social worker (where the social worker is registered to practise in the UK).
Our CPD requirements apply to all of those on the register, regardless of employment status and including those not working. We continue to ask that any social worker who has concerns about their ability to meet these requirements by the end of the registration year to refer to our guidance, or to get in touch with us about their registration. As part of our duty to consider the impact of our requirements on people with protected characteristics, we have provided further detail on our proposed requirements in the included equality impact assessment.
Question 4: To what extent do you agree that we should replace the unstructured and structured forms with a single form with revised wording?
Question 5: What are your thoughts on the proposed template for the new form at annex A?
Question 6: To what extent do you agree that:
- we should require social workers to speak to a manager or peer in relation to the CPD they are recording.
- if speaking with a peer, this person should be a registered social worker (where the social worker is registered to practise in the UK).
- social workers should declare, when recording, that they have reflected on their CPD with a manager or peer.
Please give a reason for your answers.
The way we check that social workers have met our CPD requirements will remain the same. At the point of renewal, a social worker must ensure that they have recorded at least the required amount of CPD in their online account and declare that they continue to meet the professional standards. If they have not recorded enough CPD (at least 2 pieces under the new proposals) their registration will not be renewed and they will be removed from the register [note 2].
As is currently the case, we will not offer the option for social workers to defer their CPD. Please see our CPD guidance for further information.
CPD validation – sample selection
We propose to make changes to the way we review CPD. At the end of the registration renewal period (30 November), we will continue to select 2.5% of social workers who have renewed, for CPD validation. Social workers are excluded from the selection process if:
- they are subject to a fitness to practise investigation,
- they have a live sanction of suspension or conditions of practice applied to their registration from fitness to practise proceedings, or
- they haven’t been registered continuously since the start of the registration year (1 December).
Currently, any social workers who were given advice in the previous validation are automatically selected for the next validation, as part of the 2.5% sample. The remainder of the 2.5% sample will be randomly selected from the register.
In line with our ambition to make our approach to CPD responsive to the needs of the profession and our regulatory insight, we are proposing a more focused approach to selecting the sample which will be informed by intelligence and data. We may, for example, focus some of the randomised sample on a particular group of social workers, such as newly qualified social workers, or social workers in a particular region. This will allow us to respond to any risks around social work practice that we observe through our regulatory activity, that we feel may need further exploration.
Importantly, any move to be more directive with our sample would never involve a sample based on protected characteristics. We would ensure that social workers within the area of focus would still be selected at random. We recognise that a more focused sample could mean that some groups of social workers make up a higher proportion of the sample. For example, if we were to look more closely at the CPD records of newly qualified social workers, we may indirectly be focusing on younger members of the social work population.
In order to take measures against the potential for indirect discrimination, we propose to determine the focus of any targeted sampling based upon insight and areas of concern that may pose a risk to public protection, so that we are supporting a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (to protect the public) under the Equality Act 2010.
Our aim is that improvement in the way we sample will generate greater value from the CPD recording process, enabling us to look further into trends, risks and concerns around social work practice, and support our work to offer guidance to social workers and protect the public.
Note 2: Except for those listed in the Social Workers Regulations 2018, 13(2).
Question 7: To what extent do you agree that we should take a more intelligent approach to selecting a sample for validation, as described above? Please give a reason for your answer.
CPD validation process
During CPD validation, we will continue to assess the CPD that has been recorded in the online account of those selected. Social workers will be informed that they have been selected. If selected, they will not be required to provide any additional information.
CPD records will continue to be reviewed by a team of independent assessors, who will ensure that the CPD recorded is relevant, consider whether the social worker has reflected on the impact of the learning on their practice, and whether the social worker has confirmed they have reflected on their learning with a peer (as per the proposed change to requirements). If there are any concerns identified by the assessors as part of the CPD validation process, they will be addressed in line with the CPD validation assessment guidance.
The assessors will continue to have 2 outcomes available to them – accepted or advice given. Where the outcome is accepted, the social worker will be informed, and no further action will be necessary. We will not be able to give feedback in these instances. Where the outcome is advice given, we will continue to share the assessor’s feedback with the social worker, advising on what they should consider when undertaking and recording future CPD.
To ensure that those given advice meet the requirements for CPD, we are proposing that the social worker is asked to submit a new piece of CPD within 2 months of being given advice. This new piece of CPD will be assessed. If accepted by the assessor, the social worker will be informed and there will be no further action. If the new piece of CPD does not meet our requirements, or no further CPD is submitted within the 2 month window, the following options are proposed:
During the subsequent registration renewal period (1 September to 30 November), the CPD in the social worker’s online account will be assessed. This will take place prior to the social worker’s registration being renewed. If the CPD is accepted by the assessor, the social worker will be informed and there is no further action.
Where the submitted CPD does not meet our requirements, or there is no CPD recorded, the social worker may be given conditional registration. The likely condition would require the social worker to complete a certain amount of CPD within a specified timeframe. If they do not agree to the condition or fail to comply with the condition, they may be removed from the register. Please see our guidance for further information on conditional registration.
We will renew the social worker’s registration the following year in the usual way (providing they have submitted CPD by 30 November). They are then automatically included in CPD validation at the end of registration renewal.
Question 8: To what extent do you agree that where a social worker is given advice, we should ask them to provide further details of CPD within 2 months of being informed?
Question 9: If the CPD submitted within the 2 month period does not meet our requirements, or no further CPD is submitted, what course of action should we take: option 1 or option 2, as described above? Please give a reason for your answer.
The proposals are designed with people who use social work services in mind, ultimately striving for better public protection and increased confidence in the social work profession.
We expect that any impact will be beneficial but will be felt most immediately by social workers and their employers, and by people who use social work services.
The impact assessment questions can be found at the end of the online survey, but are also listed in the box below for ease of reference.
Question 10: Do you think any of the proposals we make for the CPD process could impact on any persons with protected characteristics?
- Yes, positively
- Yes, negatively
- Don’t know
Please provide further information to support your answer.
How to respond
We recommend reading the information above before responding. It provides an overview of our proposed changes, which will take effect from 1 December 2021, and summarises the research and engagement we have undertaken.
Within this consultation document, we have included questions about the proposals we are making. You are welcome to add additional comments, but we would appreciate answers to the specific questions we have asked.
The consultation period is 12 weeks and will end on 11 August 2021.
Please complete the survey or return your response by 5pm on 11 August 2021.
You can also respond via email to: [email protected]. Please use ‘CPD consultation’ as the email title.
If you need any reasonable adjustments to help you respond, please contact us at [email protected].
Online consultation sessions
Join one of our online sessions in June or July to learn more about the changes we're proposing. You will also get the opportunity to discuss and feed back in groups, facilitated by Social Work England staff.
There are limited tickets for each session. Book your place now.
Summary of consultation questions
To what extent do you agree that we should increase the number of pieces of CPD from one to 2?
To what extent do you agree that we should set a broad theme for one of the 2 pieces of required CPD?
What broad themes should we consider?
To what extent do you agree that we should replace the unstructured and structured forms with a single form with revised wording?
What are your thoughts on the proposed template for the new form at annex A?
To what extent do you agree that:
- We should require social workers to speak to a manager or peer in relation to the CPD they are recording.
- If speaking with a peer, this person should be a registered social worker (where the social worker is registered to practise in the UK).
- Social workers should declare, when recording, that they have reflected on their CPD with a manager or peer.
- Please give a reason for your answers.
To what extent do you agree that we should take a more intelligent approach to selecting a sample for validation, as described above? Please give a reason for your answer.
To what extent do you agree that where a social worker is given advice, we should ask them to provide further details of CPD within 2 months of being informed?
If the CPD submitted within the 2 month period does not meet our requirements, or no further CPD is submitted, what course of action should we take: option 1 or option 2, as described above? Please give a reason for your answer.
Do you think any of the proposals we make for the CPD process could impact on any persons with protected characteristics?
- Yes, positively
- Yes, negatively
- Don’t know
Please provide further information to support your answer.
What happens next?
Once the consultation closes, we will analyse the responses received. We will then publish a consultation response document, which summarises the responses and explains the decisions we have taken as a result.
We will publish our consultation response and updated policy in autumn 2021. The new requirements will come into effect from 1 December 2021.
Proposed CPD form
Annex A: proposed CPD recording form
You can find the proposed CPD form at the end of the consultation document, or view the illustration below.