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CPD guidance for social workers

This page provides guidance on our requirements and expectations around CPD.

Continuing professional development (CPD) guidance for social workers

You should use this guidance until 30 November 2021

Last updated: 24 August 2021


About this guidance

Continuing professional development (CPD) is the reflection and learning activity that social workers do throughout their career to maintain and improve their practice. By doing and recording CPD, you demonstrate to us and the public that you uphold our professional standards and continue to remain fit to practise.

Meeting the requirement for CPD is one element of maintaining your registration with us [note 1]. If you are unable to demonstrate that you meet the CPD standard by the close of the registration renewal period [note 2], you may be removed from the register [note 3] . This means that you will not be able to use the protected title and will not be able to continue to practise as a social worker.

This information provides details of our CPD requirements up until 30 November 2021. It is designed to support you in understanding the professional standard on CPD (standard 4) and how to uphold it in your practice.

We want to encourage your learning to happen in diverse, flexible and innovative ways that support your work. Our approach to CPD allows for:

  • Online recording on your Social Work England account.
  • A focus on personal reflection and impact on practice.
  • You to tell us about the learning and reflection that you are already doing in post-qualifying activities.

This document also includes information about our annual registration renewal and CPD review processes and what these mean for you. Please note that validation will be referred to as CPD review from 1 June 2021.

This information makes it clear to the public, people with lived experience of social work, employers of social workers, educators and other professionals, what is expected of social workers when completing their CPD.

Summary of process

  1. Registration year starts in December.
  2. Social worker carries out CPD during the year.
  3. Social worker records CPD during the year on online account.
  4. By end of the year, social worker makes sure they have met requirements.
  5. At renewal, social worker confirms they meet CPD standard.
  6. Compliance check made on whether CPD has been recorded.
  7. 2.5% of those who have recorded CPD selected for CPD review.
  8. CPD review carried out. Notify social worker of outcome.

Students

Social Work England does not regulate students. However, if you are a social work student, you may want to familiarise yourself with our professional standards and our CPD process.

You may find this helpful in preparing for social work practice and to demonstrate that you meet the standards once you qualify, join our register and begin your career.

[note 1] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)(a)
[note 2] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rule 55
[note 3] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulations 13(2) and 14(2)

Our expectations

Our professional standard on CPD (standard 4) sets out what we mean by CPD.

Demonstrating to us that you continue to meet the CPD standard allows you to maintain your registration under our regulations [note 4] and registration rules [note 5]. Standards 4.1 to 4.8 outline the areas of learning you should consider when undertaking CPD.

Maintain my continuing professional development

  • 4.1 Incorporate feedback from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice.
  • 4.2 Use supervision and feedback to critically reflect on, and identify my learning needs, including how I use research and evidence to inform my practice.
  • 4.3 Keep my practice up to date and record how I use research, theories and frameworks to inform my practice and my professional judgement.
  • 4.4 Demonstrate good subject knowledge on key aspects of social work practice and develop knowledge of current issues in society and social policies impacting on social work.
  • 4.5 Contribute to an open and creative learning culture in the workplace to discuss, reflect on and share best practice.
  • 4.6 Reflect on my learning activities and evidence what impact continuing professional development has on the quality of my practice.
  • 4.7 Record my learning and reflection on a regular basis and in accordance with Social Work England’s guidance on continuing professional development.
  • 4.8 Reflect on my own values and challenge the impact they have on my practice.

It’s important to remember that CPD is not just about attending training courses. Although formal training can be an important aspect of learning, CPD can be any activity you feel would benefit you and your practice. This includes anything from learning from complaints and understanding where things went wrong, to podcasts, articles and book clubs. We encourage you to think creatively about your learning, including the things you’re already doing in your role.

Read more about CPD you could do to show that you meet the CPD standard.

What’s important is that your learning is relevant to you. When you record CPD, you should reflect on the impact that it has had, or will have, on you and your practice.

You should keep an up to date record of your CPD on your online account. This is how you will demonstrate that you’re eligible to renew your registration each year (section 3 of this guidance outlines how to use your online account).

Read more about how to record CPD on your online account or watch our video guide.

Where possible, you should aim to demonstrate all 8 parts of the CPD standard (4.1 to 4.8) across the activities you record during the year. You do not need to demonstrate all 8 parts in every piece of CPD. However, you must demonstrate how you have reflected on your learning, and how the CPD you have undertaken has impacted your practice (4.6).

You should upload your CPD now and keep recording throughout the year (4.7), so your CPD remains up to date. Recording CPD at least once a quarter would be good practice.

CPD and renewing your registration

Our registration renewal cycle is annual. For the 2020 to 2021 registration year, which ends on 30 November 2021, you must record at least one piece of CPD. It must include a reflection on the impact that the CPD has had on your practice. Only CPD recorded with a date completed between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2021 will count for registration renewal purposes.

At the close of the renewal period, we’ll check that you’ve recorded CPD that meets our requirements. This is a fundamental part of renewing your registration [note 6]. We recognise that some social workers may be concerned about not being able to demonstrate the professional standard on CPD (standard 4) because of their personal circumstances. If you feel this is the case, you must contact us as soon as possible to discuss your concerns.

At the close of the renewal period, you may be selected for a CPD review. If you’re selected, we’ll let you know. We’ll look at your CPD activities, checking whether you have reflected on the CPD you’ve recorded and whether it shows how it has impacted your practice.

For further information about renewal and CPD review, please see sections 4 and 5 of this guidance or read more about the CPD review process.

[note 4] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)
[note 5] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54
[note 6] The Social Workers Regulations, regulation 13(4)(a)

Guidance on the standard

To maintain your registration, you need to demonstrate that you meet the professional standard on CPD (standard 4).

The standard states that you must “maintain [your] continuing professional development” and standards 4.1 to 4.8 describe ways in which you can do this (see section 1: our expectations).

Read more about what each of our CPD focussed standards mean, including why they’re important and what you could do to demonstrate that you meet the requirements.

Your online account

As a registered social worker, you have access to a Social Work England online account. In your online account, you can record the activities you think best demonstrate how you meet the professional standard on CPD (standard 4).

Recording your CPD activity

Our registration rules [note 7] require you to maintain an up to date record of your CPD in order to renew your registration each year. This CPD should be recorded on your online account.

You can read more about what to do if you're having website issues in our website support guide. You may also want to read our online account guide.

There are 2 ways to record your CPD in the online account, however both must contain reflection on the CPD recorded. You can use:

  • a structured form
  • an unstructured form

Both forms allow you to upload additional information. However, uploading an attachment is optional. This function exists so you can attach your reflections completed elsewhere. For example, if your organisation uses its own CPD forms. We do not need to see evidence of your CPD activity, such as correspondence or certificates.

In accordance with data protection and confidentiality law, your CPD record (and any uploaded documents) must not include any personal data or information about a third party. This includes the names, job titles and email addresses of anyone you support or work with, including colleagues or managers.

Even if the CPD record is anonymised, the identity of the person may be recognisable if you include details of dates, locations, organisations, job titles, family and personal context of the third party.

It is your responsibility to make sure all identifying third party details are removed.

All CPD entries that you record in your online account must be your own work.

Access your account

Log into your online account using the username and password you set when you created your account.

Once you’ve logged into your account, select CPD overview in the Your CPD section. This will take you to a web page where you can record new CPD and see any CPD you've already recorded.

At the top of the webpage, select the option to add CPD using either a structured or unstructured form.

At the bottom of the webpage is a summary box that shows any CPD you've already recorded. You can click on individual records if you want to view, edit or delete them.

When you record CPD you have the option to save it as draft. You will need to go back into your online account and submit the draft for it to count towards your registration renewal.

Using the structured and unstructured forms

When recording CPD, you have the option of using a structured or unstructured form. You can choose which format you prefer to record your CPD.

The unstructured form provides a free text format for you to tell us about the CPD you have done and the impact it has had on your practice. The structured form guides you through the areas to consider when completing your CPD record and reflection.

Read more about how to record CPD using the structured and unstructured forms.

For security reasons, you will be logged out of your online account after 60 minutes and you will lose any unsaved CPD records. We recommend that you complete your CPD record in a Word document first and then copy and paste it into our system, to avoid losing any unsaved work. Your response to the question about the impact on your practice should be between 300 and 800 words. A warning message will appear if you exceed the maximum character limit.

Both forms have mandatory questions which you must complete before you can submit your CPD record.

  • Title of CPD: give a short descriptive name for the CPD entry.
  • Date of CPD: this is date that you did the CPD, not the date you are recording it. Only CPD recorded with a date between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2021 will count for registration renewal purposes.
  • What was your role in this example? briefly provide the details of your role when you did the CPD. Examples include, a frontline adult social worker taking part in a supervision session, a practice educator reading an article about a policy development or a team manager reflecting on a complaint.
  • What did you do? provide more information to explain what the CPD was and what happened.
  • Thinking about this example, how did it impact on the quality of your practice? this is the most important question and will be assessed if you are selected for CPD review. You should reflect on what you have learnt and describe its impact on you. For example, how have your skills and knowledge improved because of this CPD activity. Also tell us about the positive impact this piece of CPD has, or will have, on your service or the people you work with. This could be people with lived experience, colleagues, peers, or students. If you are not currently working, or not in direct practice, think about how your CPD activity might benefit those you come into contact with, or the profession as a whole). Your reflection should be between 300 and 800 words.

If you use the unstructured form, you’ll need to select which parts of the CPD standard you think your CPD record demonstrates.

Text boxes have a maximum character limit. If you reach the maximum character limit, you will get a warning. You will not be able to submit your CPD record if you go over the limit.

When you’ve saved your entry, the record will be displayed on your CPD summary page. It will show which CPD standards you’ve selected. Standards 4.6 and 4.7 (relating to recording and reflecting on CPD) will show automatically.

How we will use your information

The information recorded in your online account is your personal record of CPD. To comply with data protection regulations, it’ll be held on our system for 2 years after the close of registration that year.

We will use the information in the following ways:

  • During the year, we’ll check if you’ve recorded any valid CPD for the current registration year. We’ll send you a reminder if you still need to record CPD.
  • We’ll check at the close of the renewal period on 30 November 2021 whether you’ve recorded CPD in line with our regulatory requirements. If you have not, you may be removed from the register.
  • If you’re selected for CPD review, a team of independent CPD assessors will review the CPD that you’ve recorded in your online account during the registration year. This will be conducted in line with our CPD review process.

Read more about the CPD review process.

We’ll also use anonymised CPD data to produce a report that summarises the outcomes of the CPD review process.

Fitness to practise

If, during our review of your CPD activity, we identify information that might call into question your fitness to practise, we’ll refer to our fitness to practise rules and guidance.

We will not routinely inspect your CPD records as part of a fitness to practise investigation but may decide to do so if we feel it’s necessary.

If there has been a change to your fitness to practise, such as a finding against you by another regulator or a criminal conviction, you will need to tell Social Work England about it.

However, this should not be done through your CPD recording. You can disclose this as part of the renewal process, as you will be asked whether anything has changed that will affect your ability to practise safely and effectively. However, you should not wait until renewal to tell us about something that may impair your fitness to practise. You should notify our fitness to practise department as soon as possible if there are any changes that may affect your fitness to practise.

Read more about how to make a self-referral.

Unethical practice and concerns

Learning from mistakes made by you or others, and reflecting on how you would do things differently, is an important part of CPD. If you want to upload CPD about something that did not go well, this should not necessarily be a factual account of what happened. This should be recorded elsewhere, for example, in accordance with your employer's relevant processes. Instead, your CPD should focus on the learning that you gained from what happened and how you will use this learning to inform and improve your future practice.

[note 7] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54

Renewing your registration

The renewals process

Our registration year runs from 1 December to 30 November. In September each year, we’ll let you know that it’s time to renew your registration. This will include a reminder that you need to meet our requirement to record CPD by 30 November.

When you apply to renew your registration, we will automatically check whether you have recorded any valid CPD. If you haven’t recorded any CPD at this point, you’ll need to confirm that you’ll record CPD before 30 November in line with the requirements in our regulations [note 8] and rules [note 9].

If you join or re-join the register between 1 September and 30 November, you will not need to complete a renewal application. However, you will still need to pay your registration fee. It is not mandatory to record CPD during this period, but it would be good practice.

Ensuring compliance

Recording CPD is a fundamental requirement for continued registration to practise as a social worker. If you hold registration, we expect you to uphold the professional standards, including the requirement to do CPD, even if you are away from work for an extended period due to long term sick leave, maternity, paternity, adoption leave, or are not currently working.

This is because anyone on the register can practise under the protected title of social worker and those not currently working can resume work at any time. As the regulator, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone on our register is maintaining their CPD and demonstrating their ongoing fitness to practise.

To ensure your registration is renewed and you can continue to practise, you should:

  • apply to renew,
  • pay your registration fee,
  • and record at least one piece of CPD

You must do this by midnight on 30 November. If you have not completed all three actions by this deadline, your registration will not be renewed.

However, if you have applied to renew and paid your fee, but not recorded any CPD by midnight on 30 November, you will receive an additional 21 days to do so.

You must record CPD by midnight on 21 December. If you still have not recorded any CPD by 22 December, your registration will not be renewed, and you may be removed from the register [note 10]. This means you will not be able to use the protected title and practise as a social worker.

The additional 21 days to record CPD is in place for the current registration year. Our advice remains for you to record CPD regularly throughout the year.

We recognise that some social workers may be concerned about not being able to demonstrate the professional standard on CPD (standard 4) because of their personal circumstances. If you feel this is the case, you must contact us as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. As stated above, you must still record CPD if you are not currently practising. The personal circumstances that you should contact us about will be outside these situations. Circumstances will be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

Some circumstances disclosed to us may cause us concern about your registration. For instance, if you are telling us about a health matter, which affects your ability to practise safely and effectively, we would have expected you to disclose this to us earlier, such as in your renewal application. In those circumstances we may need to make further enquiries in relation to your registration.

In other instances, your personal circumstances may suggest you might want to consider leaving the register. For example, if you’ll be away from practice for a significant period of time, meaning that you may not be able to demonstrate the CPD standard, you may want to consider voluntarily removing yourself from the register.

For further information you should review the safe and effective practice guidance.

If you’re subject to a fitness to practise investigation or have a live sanction of suspension or conditions of practice applied to your registration, you should continue to record CPD. This is because you’ll need to demonstrate how you meet the CPD requirement when investigations or sanctions are completed.

If there has been a change to your fitness to practise, you need to tell us as soon as possible. For more information about telling us about changes to your fitness to practise, please see our guidance on self-referrals.

For information about all the requirements to renew your registration please read the renewals guidance.

[note 8] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)
[note 9] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54
[note 10] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulations 13(2) and 14(2)

CPD review

Please note that validation will be referred to as CPD review from 1 June 2021.

CPD review process

At the close of the registration renewal period, we will randomly select 2.5% of social workers for CPD review. You’ll be excluded from the selection process if:

  • you have an active sanction applied to your registration from fitness to practise proceedings on the 1 December 2021. This includes social workers with:
    • conditions of practice
    • suspension
    • interim conditions of practice
    • interim suspension
  • you joined the register (through registration or restoration) between 1 September and 30 November 2021.

However, in all instances, we encourage you to regularly record CPD in your online account to demonstrate how you meet the CPD requirement. In carrying out the CPD review, we’ll assess the records of all those selected and check whether the CPD recorded shows how the learning activity has impacted on practice. The assessment will be carried out by a team of independent assessors.

If you are selected for CPD review

A communication will be sent to each selected social worker informing them that they have been selected for CPD review. We will not ask you to provide any additional CPD information. Instead, we will assess the CPD you have recorded on your online account during the previous registration year.

Being selected for CPD review in one year does not exclude you from being selected in any following years, as social workers are chosen at random.

Outcome of CPD review

If you’ve been selected, we’ll aim to complete the CPD review in 8 to 12 weeks. Once we’ve completed the CPD review, we’ll let you know the outcome.

The outcomes of the CPD review are:

  • accepted, or
  • advice given.

When the outcome is accepted, no further action is required.

When the outcome is advice given, we will contact you with details of the advice provided by the assessor. You will not be required to provide any further information. We will advise that you should reflect on the advice when recording future CPD. We will inform you that you will be automatically selected for CPD review in the next cycle. There is no right to appeal this outcome.

In most instances the outcome of a CPD review will not be made public. However, where a concern is raised and the case is referred to either the registration or fitness to practise teams for further consideration, it may be that the outcome of the CPD review is published or referred to in their processes, including (potentially) in a decision of the adjudicators.

For more information, read the detailed CPD review guidance.

Advice and support

View our CPD support page for links to useful information.

If you cannot find the information you need or need specific advice or support, please contact the CPD advice team.

Version history

24 August 2021

  • Changes made: clearer information included about which social workers will be excluded from the CPD review process.

15 June 2021

  • Changes made to 'about this guidance': strengthened language to make it clear that failure to provide CPD may mean removal from register and what the consequences of this are.
  • Changes made to 'our expectations': reworded to make annual CPD requirements and the link to registration renewal clearer. 
  • Changes made to 'understanding the standard': replaced with a short section that signposts to resources elsewhere on our website. 
  • Changes made to 'your online account': clarifies that uploading an attachment is optional and should only be used to upload a reflection. It strengthens the data protection message on not including third party personal data in CPD records. It provides clearer guidance on how we want social workers to use the online account to reflect on and record their CPD. A paragraph has been added advising that personal fitness to practice concerns should not be recorded as CPD but should be made through a self-declaration or disclosed at registration renewal. We have also made it clearer on what to record when reflecting on a mistake.
  • Changes to 'renewing your registration': the ‘ensuring compliance’ sub-section has been significantly reworded to emphasise the requirement to provide CPD by 30 November, including for those who are not practising due to maternity leave. References to exceptional circumstance have been removed. Fewer than 10 social workers requested exceptional circumstances in 2020: none were accepted. 
  • Changes made to 'validation': renamed 'CPD review'.

First published: 29 November 2019

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