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 2021 to 30 November 2022
- About this guidance
- Why you need to do and record CPD
- Professional standard on CPD (standard 4)
- The CPD requirements and our expectations
- How to record CPD
- How we will use your information
- Renewing your registration
- CPD review
- Advice and support
About this guidance
We have created this guidance to support you to understand:
- why you need to do and record CPD
- the professional standard on CPD (standard 4) and how to uphold it in your practice.
- the CPD requirements and our expectations
- how to record CPD on your online account
- how we will use your information.
This guidance also includes information about our CPD review process.
Who this guidance is for
The requirement to do and record CPD applies to all registered social workers in England. This includes people who are:
- on extended leave (for example maternity, paternity or adoption, or long-term sick leave)
- not currently working
- in non-caseholding roles (for example managers, educators and commissioners)
Information about our expectations around CPD may also be helpful to:
- the public
- people with lived experience of social work
- employers of social workers
- other professionals.
We do not regulate students. This means students are not required to 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 qualify, join our register and begin your career.
Important: new CPD requirements
Please note: we have updated the CPD requirements and this guidance following a public consultation carried out in 2021.
We have listened to, and carefully considered, the feedback from the consultation. As a result, we have made the following changes:
- We have increased the amount of CPD you must submit every year to a minimum of 2 pieces. We continue to encourage social workers to record CPD once a quarter as good practice.
- We have introduced a requirement to submit at least one piece of CPD with a peer reflection. This guidance includes more information about what we mean by peer reflection, and a list of professionals who count as peers.
- We have replaced the structured and unstructured forms with a single CPD form. We have also made changes to the online account to help you record CPD.
These changes will take effect from the start of the new registration year (1 December 2021).
We are also considering making changes to the outcome of the CPD review process. We will publish more details in spring 2022.
We continue to encourage you to learn in diverse, flexible, and innovative ways that support your work. Your learning should focus on personal reflection and impact on practice. This can include the learning and reflection that you are already doing in post-qualifying activities.
Why you need to do and record CPD
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.
CPD is the reflection and learning activity that you do throughout your career to maintain and improve your practice.
Meeting our CPD requirements is an important part of maintaining your registration with us [note 1]. By doing and recording CPD, you demonstrate to us (and the public) that you:
- uphold our professional standards (including 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, lawyers and dentists. Evidencing CPD is an essential part of demonstrating your fitness to practise.
For this reason, the requirement to do and record applies even if you are away from work for an extended period. For example, if you are:
- on long-term sick leave
- on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or
- not currently working.
Anyone who holds registration with us can practise under the protected title of ‘social worker’. It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone on our register is fit to practise.
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 concerns.
Personal circumstances do not include long term sick leave, maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or if you are not currently working.
You should only contact us if your personal circumstances are outside these situations. We will discuss circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
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 are telling 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.
There are also 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.
CPD and renewing your registration
- Our registration year runs from 1 December to 30 November. During this time, you must record a minimum of 2 pieces of CPD on your online account. At least one of these must include a peer reflection.
- The CPD must be dated within the current registration year (1 December and 30 November) to count for registration renewal purposes.
- You can apply to renew your registration between 1 September and 30 November. In September each year, we will 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.
- At the close of the renewal period, we select 2.5% of people who have successfully renewed their registration for CPD review. If you’re selected, we will let you know.
- We will then carry out the CPD review and notify social workers of the outcome and next steps.
You can read more about the CPD review process later in this guidance. For more information about the registration renewal requirements, you can read the renewals guidance.
If you are involved in a fitness to practise concern
You should continue to record CPD if you:
- are subject to a fitness to practise investigation
- 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.
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, you need to tell us as soon as possible.
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.
For more information about telling us about changes to your fitness to practise, please see our guidance on self-referrals.
[note 1] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)(a)
Professional standard on CPD (standard 4)
Our professional standard on CPD (standard 4) consists of 8 parts which outline the areas of learning you should consider when doing CPD.
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).
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.
Read more about each part of the CPD standard:
- Feedback (4.1)
- Supervision (4.2)
- Research, theories and frameworks (4.3)
- Subject knowledge and awareness of current issues (4.4)
- Open and creative learning culture (4.5)
- Reflection (4.6)
- Recording your learning (4.7)
- Values and ethics (4.8)
The CPD requirements and our expectations
Recording CPD on your online account demonstrates to us that you continue to meet the CPD standard. This allows you to maintain your registration under our regulations [note 2] and registration rules [note 3].
To meet the CPD requirements, you must record:
- a minimum of 2 pieces of CPD, including
- at least one piece of CPD with a peer reflection.
If you do not do this by the close of the registration renewal period (30 November) [note 4], we may remove you from the register [note 5]. This means that you will not be able to use the protected title of ‘social worker’, and you will not be able to continue to practise.
When you record CPD on your online account, you must:
- describe what you have learnt from doing the CPD activity
- reflect on the positive impact the CPD has had (or will have) on the people you work with (4.6). If you do not work directly with the public, this could include colleagues, peers, students, or the staff you manage.
CPD with a peer reflection
To meet the CPD requirements, you must record at least one piece of CPD with a 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.
Peer reflection discussions are informal and can take place in one to one or group settings. For example, you could discuss what you have learnt from doing your CPD:
- during supervision with your manager
- during team reflection sessions
- by having a conversation with a colleague.
The role of the peer is not to approve your learning, but to support you to think about how you can improve your practice. The discussion also allows you to share what you have learnt with others, contributing to an open learning culture (standard 4.5).
Who counts as a peer?
- Social workers registered in the United Kingdom with either Northern Ireland Social Care Council, Scottish Social Services Council, Social Care Wales, or Social Work England.
- Your line manager or supervisor.
- Other professionals who have knowledge of your social work practice. This could be a nurse, health visitor, midwife, doctor, academic, schoolteacher, police officer, probation officer, mental health worker, occupational therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. This list is not exhaustive.
When you record a peer reflection, you should not record the name or other details of who you reflected with. You must anonymise all CPD.
Types of CPD
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.
Types of CPD include:
- on the job learning/experience
- learning from a case
- self-directed learning (for example listening to a podcast or reading a journal article)
- feedback from a person with lived experience of social work or colleague
- work towards a formal qualification or certification
- training session
- conference, seminar or event
- lecturing, teaching or research
- leadership, management or mentoring
- personal lived experience
We encourage you to think creatively about your learning, including the things you’re already doing in your role and outside of work. The important thing is that your learning is relevant to you.
Read more information about the different types of CPD.
[note 2] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulation 13(4)
[note 3] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54
[note 4] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rule 55
[note 5] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, regulations 13(2) and 14(2)
How to record CPD
As a registered social worker, you have a Social Work England online account. You must use this account to record your CPD.
This is because our registration rules [note 6] require you to maintain an up to date record of your CPD in order to renew your registration each year.
Log in to your online account
To access your online account, you should log in using your email address and the password you chose when you created your account.
Record CPD on your online account
- Once you have logged in to your online account, select ‘Record CPD’ in the section ‘Your CPD’. This will take you to the ‘CPD overview’ page.
- To record a piece of CPD, select the button ‘Record new CPD’ button.
- This will take you to a page with important information. You should read this information before you record CPD.
- When you are ready to record CPD, select ‘Start now’. This will take you to the CPD form. You can read more about completing the CPD form below.
- Once you have completed the form, select ‘Continue’ at the end of the page. This will take you to the 'Review and submit’ page.
- Review the information you have provided and select ‘Submit CPD’. The CPD record will not be submitted until you complete this step.
- You will then have the option to record another piece of CPD or return to the ‘CPD overview’ page.
- Once you return to the ‘CPD overview’ page, you can view any submitted or draft CPD.
Read more about how to record CPD.
Avoid losing work - save as draft
For security reasons, the system will log you out after 60 minutes and you will lose any unsaved CPD. To avoid losing any unsaved work, save your CPD record as a draft.
We recommend that you complete your CPD record in a separate document first and then copy and paste it into our system.
All text boxes have minimum and maximum word limits.
The form will tell you if you have done too few or too many words. You will not be able to submit your CPD record until you have corrected this.
Your CPD record (and any additional documents) must not include any personal data or information about anyone:
- you support
- work with (including colleagues or managers).
Personal data and information includes:
- job titles
- email addresses.
Even if you have anonymised the CPD record, the identity of the person may be recognisable if you include details of:
- job titles
- family and personal context.
It is your responsibility to remove all identifying third party details. This is in accordance with data protection and confidentiality law.
All CPD entries that you record in your online account must be your own work.
How to complete the CPD form
We have replaced the unstructured and structured CPD forms with a new, single form. Please note that if you do not wish to fully complete the form, you can save it as a draft and return to it later.
The CPD form has some questions which you must complete before you can submit your CPD record.
Type of CPD
This is a drop-down list where you must select the type of CPD you did. If you cannot find a type of CPD that describes your activity, select ‘Other’ and write a short description.
In one sentence, describe the CPD activity and why it is relevant to you
You must also complete this question by providing a short description of the CPD activity that you did.
Date of CPD activity
You should enter the date that you completed the CPD activity (not the date you recorded it). If you did a CPD activity that lasted several days, weeks or months, put the last date of the activity.
You should only record CPD dated within the current registration year (1 December 2021 to 30 November 2022). CPD with a date outside the current registration year will not count for registration renewal purposes.
Describe what you have learnt from doing this CPD activity
You may want to refer to the CPD standard when answering this question. For example, you could write about how the CPD activity contributed to an open learning culture (4.5) or kept your practice up to date (4.3).
You should write about 250 to 500 words.
Reflect on and describe the positive impact the CPD has had (or will have) on your practice and the people you work with
This could be people with lived experience of social work, colleagues, or students. If you're not currently working, or not in direct practice, you could think about how your CPD activity might benefit people you come into contact with or the profession as a whole.
You should write about 250 to 500 words.
Which parts of the CPD standard have you met by doing this activity?
You need to select all of the parts of the CPD standard that apply. Standard 4.6 and 4.7 are automatically selected because you will meet them by recording a piece of CPD in your online account.
Before you can continue, you must confirm that you have:
- provided a description of what you have learnt
- reflected on and described the positive impact of the CPD activity
- not included any personal information about anyone, including the people you support, colleagues, managers or employers.
The form has 2 optional questions.
Describe what you have learnt from discussing this CPD activity with a peer
By answering this question, you will meet the CPD requirements to record at least one piece of CPD with a peer reflection.
This question is optional for each piece of CPD, but you must record at least one piece of CPD with a peer reflection during the registration year.
You must write at least 250 words.
Read more about what we mean by peer reflection.
Do you want to upload any additional reflections?
You can use this to upload an attachment of any additional reflections (for example, if your organisation uses its own CPD forms.)
Accepted file types include: Word, PDF, Notepad, Word pad and Open office files.
Please do not upload evidence of your CPD activity, such as correspondence or certificates, as this is not required.
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.
Your CPD should focus on:
- the learning that you gained from what happened
- how you will use this learning to inform and improve your future practice.
The factual account should be recorded elsewhere, for example, in accordance with your employer's relevant processes.
[note 6] Social Work England (registration) rules 2019, rules 52-54
How we will use your information
The information recorded in your online account is your personal record of CPD. To follow data protection regulations, we will hold the information on our system for 2 years (after the close of registration that year).
This means that if you recorded CPD during the 2019/2020 registration year, it will be deleted in December 2022. We recommend keeping a personal file of your previous CPD if you wish to keep a record of it.
We will use the information in the following ways:
- During the year, we will check if you have recorded any valid CPD for the current registration year. We will send you a reminder if you still need to record CPD.
- We will check at the close of the renewal period on 30 November 2022 whether you’ve recorded CPD in line with our regulatory 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 fitness to practise rules and guidance.
Read more about the CPD review process.
We’ll also use anonymised CPD data to undertake analysis into CPD activity. This analysis is for internal use and informs our approach to CPD.
Renewing your registration
The registration 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.
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.
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. This applies, even if you are away from work for an extended period, for example due to long term sick leave, maternity, paternity, adoption leave, or if you 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 do the following (by midnight on 30 November):
- apply to renew,
- pay your registration fee,
- and record a minimum of at least 2 pieces of CPD. At least one of these must include a peer reflection.
If you have not completed all 3 actions by this deadline, your registration will not be renewed.
For information about all the requirements to renew your registration please read the renewals guidance.
Why we do a CPD review
CPD review enables us to demonstrate to the public that social workers are maintaining their CPD and remain fit to practise.
During CPD review, we will assess CPD records from a sample of social workers to check whether the records show how the CPD activities:
- have helped them learn
- had a positive impact on their practice and the people they work with.
The CPD review ensures that the CPD records demonstrate compliance with rule 50(1)(a) of the registration rules.
If a social worker’s CPD does not meet our requirements, we have a supportive process in place to help them address this.
Who carries out the CPD review?
A team of independent assessors carry out the CPD review. Our assessors are a mix of social workers and lay assessors. Our lay assessors are people with experience working in:
- health and social care, or
- quality assurance in a social work setting or equivalent.
How we select people for CPD review
Every year, we randomly select 2.5% of social workers for CPD review following registration renewal. We will exclude you from the selection process if you:
- have an active sanction applied to your registration from fitness to practise proceedings on the 1 December 2022. This includes social workers with:
- conditions of practice
- interim conditions of practice
- interim suspension
- joined the register (through registration or restoration) between 1 September and 30 November 2022.
We encourage everyone to record CPD regularly on their online accounts to demonstrate how they meet the CPD requirements.
If you’re selected for CPD review
We will send you a communication to let you know that we have selected you 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.
We choose social workers randomly for CPD review. Being selected for CPD review in one year does not exclude you from being selected in any following years.
Outcome of CPD review
If we have selected you, we will aim to complete the CPD review in 8 to 12 weeks.
Once we’ve completed the CPD review, we will 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.
Our CPD consultation in 2021 proposed changes to the CPD review process when a social worker receives the outcome ‘advice given’. We want to take more time to consider the details and impact of these changes before we make a decision. We will publish more details about this in spring 2022.
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.
Advice and support
We have many resources on our website to help you record CPD, including:
- How to record CPD guide
- CPD examples, done by registered social workers last year
- CPD advice for social workers not in direct practice
- CPD advice for social workers on extended leave (for example maternity leave)
- CPD blogs on a variety of topics, including different parts of the CPD standard
If you cannot find the information you need or need specific advice or support, please email the CPD advice team at [email protected].