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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

Guidance for registration year 1 December 2022 to 30 November 2023

Last updated: 11 July 2023


About this guidance

This guidance is about (all of the following):

  • who should record CPD
  • the CPD requirements
  • professional standard 4 (the professional standard on CPD)
  • what to record as CPD
  • how to record CPD in your online account
  • the CPD review process
  • how we will use your information
  • further advice and support on CPD

Who this guidance is for

This guidance is for all registered social workers in England.

This is because the requirement to do (and record) CPD applies to all registered social workers in England. For more detail on who should record CPD, read the next section ‘who should record CPD’.

This guidance may also be useful for (any of the following):

  • the public
  • people with lived experience of social work
  • employers of social workers
  • educators
  • other professionals

What is CPD?

CPD stands for ‘continuing professional development’. Social workers are expected to uphold 6 professional standards. Standard 4 is about CPD.

CPD is a term for the reflection and learning activities that social workers do throughout their career. CPD should maintain and improve a social worker’s practice. Read the section ‘what to record as CPD’ for examples of things a social worker can do as CPD.

Recording CPD is a way for social workers to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. It is also a requirement of being a registered social worker with Social Work England.

This guidance will explain our CPD requirements (and how social workers can meet them).

Who should record CPD

The requirement to do and record CPD applies to all registered social workers in England.

This includes (any of the following):

  • those not currently working
  • those in non-caseholding roles
  • overseas registrants

Those not currently working

You must record CPD to stay registered with us. This is the case even if you are away from work for an extended period. For example, if you are (any of the following):

  • on maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • on long-term sick leave
  • not currently working in social work

Those in non-caseholding roles

You must record CPD to stay registered with us. This is the case even if you are working in a non-caseholding role. 

By non-caseholding roles, we mean roles where you do not directly offer social work support to the public. For example, if you are (any of the following):

  • managing a social work team
  • working in the academic sector (for example, as lecturer in social work)
  • working as a commissioner

Overseas registrants

You must still record CPD to stay registered with us. This is the case even if you are living or practising overseas. 

Read further guidance for overseas applicants.

Newly registered social workers

Our registration year runs from 1 December to 30 November each year. All social workers must record CPD by 30 November.

The only exception to this is if you join the register during the registration renewal period (1 September to 30 November). People who join the register during this period do not have to record CPD as part of their registration for the upcoming year. However, we encourage you to do so as good practice.


We do not regulate students. This means students do not register with us or record CPD until they have graduated and are moving into practice.

However, if you are a social work student, you may want to familiarise yourself with our professional standards and our CPD process. This will help you prepare for social work practice and to meet the standards once you join our register.

The CPD requirements

The current CPD requirements

To meet the CPD requirements, you must record a minimum of 2 different pieces of CPD.

You must include a peer reflection with at least one of these pieces of CPD. Record what you have learnt from discussing your CPD with a peer.

You must record each piece of CPD in a sperate form in your online account.

You must do this by midnight on 30 November each year. This is part of renewing their registration for the following year.

Why we require social workers to record CPD

Meeting our CPD requirements allows you to maintain your registration under our regulations [1] and registration rules [2].

By doing and recording CPD, you demonstrate to us and to the public that you (both of the following):

  • continue to meet professional standard 4 (maintaining your CPD)
  • continue to be fit to practise as a social worker

Many regulated professionals must evidence their CPD to their regulator. For example, doctors and dentists.

Anyone who holds registration with us can practise under the protected title of ‘social worker’. If you are not currently practising, you can start practising at any time. It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone on our register is fit to practise. Evidencing CPD is an essential part of demonstrating your fitness to practise.

We encourage social workers to record CPD about 4 times a year as good practise.

[note 1] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)

[note 2] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54

CPD is part of renewing your registration

Social workers must renew their registration annually.

Registration renewal (the time when you apply to renew your registration) is open from 1 September to 30 November each year. As part of renewing your registration, you need to meet the CPD requirements.

The CPD you record must have been done during the current registration year (between 1 December and 30 November) for it to count for registration renewal purposes.

If you do not meet the CPD requirements by the end of the registration renewal period (midnight on 30 November)[3] we may remove you from the register [4]. This means that you will not be able to use the protected title of ‘social worker’. You will not be able to continue to practise.

For more information about the registration renewal requirements, you can read the renewals guidance.

[note 3] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rule 55

[note 4] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulations 13(2) and 14(2)

Peer reflection

Peer reflection means that you have discussed the content of your CPD activity with a peer, your manager or another professional.

When discussing your CPD with a peer, you should talk about:

  • what you have learnt from doing the CPD
  • the positive impact the CPD activity has had (or will have) on your role, practice and the people you work with
Who counts as a peer?

Your peer must be someone who has knowledge of your social work practise. They should be someone you know in a professional context.

Any of the following people count as a peer:

  • social workers registered in the United Kingdom with either the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, Scottish Social Services Council, Social Care Wales, or Social Work England
  • your line manager or supervisor
  • another professional who has knowledge of your social work practice. For example (any of the following):
    • nurse
    • health visitor
    • midwife
    • doctor
    • academic
    • schoolteacher
    • police officer
    • probation officer
    • mental health worker
    • occupational therapist
    • psychiatrist
    • psychologist

This list is not exhaustive.

Your peer reflection must not be with (either of the following):

  • a person you provide support (for example, a person using social work services)
  • someone you line manage 

You should not record the name of the person you reflect with. However, you should tell us what their professional role is in relation to you. This could include their job title and a short description of how they interact with your role. 

Further information on peer reflection

You can read more about peer reflection in our detailed information on peer reflection.

Professional standard on CPD (standard 4)

There are 6 professional standards. The professional standards set out what you must know, understand, and be able to do. Standard 4 is about CPD.

Professional standard 4 consists of 8 parts. These outline the areas of learning you should consider when doing CPD.

Standard 4: Maintain my continuing professional development

As a social worker, I will:

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

Further information on the CPD standard

You can read more about each part of the CPD standard:

What to record as CPD

Your CPD is unique to you

CPD can be any activity you feel would benefit your practice.

CPD is not just about attending training courses. Although formal training can be an important aspect of learning, we encourage you to think creatively. You can learn in diverse, flexible, and innovative ways.

Your CPD could include things you’re already doing in your role, or things you do outside of work.

What’s important is that your CPD (all of the following):

  • is relevant to you
  • includes personal reflection
  • has a positive impact on your practice

Each piece of CPD must be your own work. It must be learning that you have done during the current registration year. You must anonymise all CPD.

Types of CPD

There are many different types of CPD. For example (any of the following):

  • on the job learning or experience
  • learning from a case
  • self-directed learning (for example, listening to a podcast or reading a journal article)
  • feedback (this could be from a person with lived experience of social work, or a colleague)
  • work towards a formal qualification or certification
  • supervision
  • a training session
  • a conference, seminar or event
  • lecturing, teaching or research
  • leadership, management or mentoring
  • personal lived experience

Read more information about the different types of CPD.

Reflecting on cases where things didn't go well

Learning from mistakes you (or others) make is an important part of CPD. It's helpful to reflect on how you would do things differently.

If you want to upload CPD about something that did not go well, this does not need to be a detailed account of what happened.

Your CPD should focus on (both of the following):

  • the learning that you gained from what happened
  • how you will use this learning to inform and improve your future practice

How to record CPD in your online account

As a registered social worker, you have a Social Work England online account. You must use this online account to record your CPD.

This is because our registration rules [5] require you to maintain an up-to-date record of your CPD in order to renew your registration each year.

[note 5] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54

Support recording your CPD

We have resources on our website that can help you with recording CPD.

Our how to record CPD page includes a step-by-step guide and a tutorial video.

You must record each piece of CPD on a separate form in your online account. You must include a peer reflection with at least one of these pieces of CPD. You can read 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.

Personal circumstances

We recognise that some social workers may be concerned about not being able to do and record CPD because of their personal circumstances. If you feel this is the case, you must contact us as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Personal circumstances do not include (any of the following):

  • being on long term sick leave
  • being on maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • working overseas
  • not currently working (in social work or otherwise)

You should only contact us if your personal circumstances are something different from the circumstances listed above.

If you tell us about something that might affect your safe and effective practice

There are some circumstances where if you tell us about them, it may make us concerned about your registration. For example, if you tell us about a health matter which affects your ability to practise safely and effectively.

We would expect you to disclose this to us through a self-referral. This is because we may need to make further enquiries in relation to your registration.

If you are involved in a fitness to practise concern

You must continue to record CPD if (either of the following):

  • you are subject to a fitness to practise investigation
  • you have a live sanction of suspension or conditions of practice applied to your registration

This is because you need to demonstrate how you meet the CPD requirements when investigations or sanctions are completed. At the end of the fitness to practise process, you will need to show how you have met the renewal requirements. This includes recording CPD (unless you leave the register).We will not routinely inspect your CPD records as part of a fitness to practise investigation. However, we may decide to do this if we feel it’s necessary.

You should notify our fitness to practise department as soon as possible if there are any changes that may affect or impair your fitness to practise. You should not wait until you are applying to renew your registration to tell us.

For more information about telling us about changes to your fitness to practise, please see our guidance on self-referrals.

Leaving the register

There are some circumstances where you may want to consider leaving the register. For example, if you will be away from practice for a significant period of time and will not be able to record CPD. You can apply for voluntary removal from the register at any time and restore your registration at a later date.

For more information, you should read our safe and effective practice guidance.

If you wish to be removed from the register (on a temporary or permanent basis), please read our guidance on leaving the register voluntarily.

CPD review

We carry out an annual review of CPD submitted by social workers. This is to check that social workers are meeting the CPD requirements[6] and upholding professional standard 4.

We randomly select 2.5% of social workers for CPD review following registration renewal. CPD review usually starts in January of each year and is completed by March.

CPD review enables us to demonstrate to the public that social workers are maintaining their CPD and remain fit to practise.

During CPD review, a team of independent assessors will assess CPD records from a sample of social workers. They will check whether the records have met our CPD requirements.

The CPD review ensures that CPD records demonstrate compliance with rule 50(1)(a) of the registration rules.

You can read detailed guidance on the CPD review process.

[note 6] Social Work England (registration) Rules 2019, rule 53

How we will use your information

The information recorded in your online account is your personal record of CPD. To comply with data protection law, we will not hold your CPD record indefinitely. We will let you know before we delete any CPD records.

We will use the information in all of the following ways:

  • During the year, we will check if you have recorded any CPD for the current registration year. We will send you reminders on a regular basis. We send these reminders to the email address associated with your online account. You should ensure this email address is up to date and that you can access it if you are away from work.
  • We will check at the end of the renewal period (midnight on 30 November) whether you’ve met the CPD requirements. If you have not, we may remove you from the register.
  • If you’re selected for CPD review, a team of independent CPD assessors will review the CPD you have recorded in your online account during the registration year. They will conduct this in line with our CPD review process.

If we identify information that might call into question your fitness to practise during our review, we will refer to our rules and guidance on registration and fitness to practise.

We’ll also use anonymised CPD data to do analysis of the CPD that social workers record. This analysis is for internal use and informs our approach to CPD. We may publish anonymised statistics and share what we have learned about CPD.

Advice and support

We have many resources on our website to help you record CPD, including:

If you need further support, contact the CPD advice team on [email protected].

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