Misuse of title guidance
Detailed guidance for people who want to report someone, or have themselves, been practising as a social worker without registration
Misuse of title guidance
Published: 4 September 2023
- About this guidance
- Report someone practising as a social worker illegally
- If you become aware you have been practising without registration
About this guidance
This guidance is for (both of the following):
- people who want to report someone who has been practising as a social worker without registration
- people who have been practising as a social worker without registration
We are the regulator for social workers in England. We have a duty to ensure public protection.
The Social Workers Regulations 2018, Regulations 28 and 29 state that a person:
- may not practise as a social worker in England unless they are a registered social worker
- must not use the title ‘social worker’ unless they are a registered social worker
- must not falsely represent themself to be a registered social worker, to have a qualification in relation to social work or be the subject of an entry in the register
- must not let someone else refer to them as a ‘social worker’ unless they are a registered social worker.
Report someone practising as a social worker illegally
How to report someone
- complete our misuse of title concern form
- send the completed form to the registration and advice team at [email protected]
You must fill out the mandatory fields on the form. We need this detail for our investigation.
- We recommend you gather the information requested in the misuse of title concern form before submitting the form. We may need to ask for further information throughout the process.
How to decide if you should report someone
Check if the person is listed on our public register or with another regulatory body.
First, you should check if the person is registered with (any of the following regulators):
- Social Work England
- Social Care Wales
- Scottish Social Services Council
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council
If they are registered with any of these regulators, they can use the title ‘social worker’.
If the person is registered with Social Work England and you have a concern about their fitness to practise, you can still raise a concern about them. See our guidance on raising a concern about a registered social worker.
We can’t investigate people who work in other healthcare professions unless they are also registered with Social Work England. These regulatory bodies may be able to help you.
Check whether the person was using temporary registration
When the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force, Social Work England created a temporary register. This meant that previously registered social workers could return to practice during the pandemic.
The temporary register was in effect from 27 March 2020 to 14 October 2022.
If (both of the following apply):
- your concern falls within this time period
- you can’t find the social worker on our register
it might be because the person was using temporary registration.
Before raising a misuse of title concern, you should check whether the person was on the temporary register at the time. You can check by asking the registration and advice team. Email the team on [email protected].
When contacting us to enquire whether the person was on the temporary register, please provide the following information about the person in question:
- their name
- their place and/or town of work
- their Social Work England registration number (if applicable)
Check whether your concern falls under misuse of title
‘Social worker’ is a protected title. This means that you have to be registered to use the title. Anyone who uses the title with the intention to deceive but is not registered is committing an offence. They can be prosecuted for this.
Under regulation 28(3) social workers who are registered with (either):
- Social Care Wales
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council
- Scottish Social Services Council
can practise in England on a temporary basis, please see our temporary practice policy for more information.
If someone is calling themselves a social worker when they shouldn’t be, this is a misuse of title concern.
Some examples of misuse of title concerns include (any of the following):
- a student or trainee social worker calling themselves a ‘social worker’. They are not yet fully qualified or on the register. This means they should use the terms ‘student social worker’ or ‘trainee social worker’
- someone who is not registered calling themselves a ‘social worker’ because they hold a social work qualification. A qualification alone does not make you a registered social worker
You should also tell us if someone is falsely claiming that they have a social work qualification so that we can determine if a misuse of title case, or a potential registration fraud case should be opened.
If your concern does not relate to misuse of title, please see our general raise a concern page.
Check that you can provide us with identifiable information
Make sure that you can provide us with (both of the following):
- evidence that shows the person is (or was) committing a misuse of title offence
- as much information about the person’s identity as possible, so we can contact the person of concern (such as their full name and contact details)
You need to supply this information when you do the misuse of title form.
What happens when you raise a misuse of title concern
First, we will search our register. This is to confirm that the person of concern is not registered or was not registered at the time in question.
We will close the misuse of title case if we find that (either of the following):
- the person of concern is a registered social worker
- the person of concern was previously registered (at the time in question)
If we find that the person is (or was) not registered, we will investigate the concern. We will provide you with a case number.
To investigate, we use (all of the following):
- the evidence you have provided
- the contact details for the person of concern
- any witnesses or third parties
If we find that the person was misusing the title, we will contact them. In some cases, the person of concern is unaware of the law or has made a mistake. In some cases this will mean that they will stop using the title immediately.
We will (do both of the following):
- explain the law
- tell them that they should not be misusing the title
We may also send a cease and desist letter. This letter will clearly explain (both of the following):
- what actions we want them to take
- what actions we may take if the offence continues
We may contact the police if the person (does either of the following):
- does not respond to us
- continues to commit an offence
The police may prosecute them. This could lead to them receiving a fine. You can read further guidance in our prosecution policy.
We can’t provide a timescale for these investigations. This is because we may need to contact witnesses, employers and other third parties that you tell us about.
However, we will keep you updated on the progress of the case.
You should also update us if you may be able to give any more evidence.
If you have concerns
Tell the police if you think there is a risk this person will cause immediate harm.
You should tell us the crime reference number. We will add this detail to the case.
We are not able to investigate safeguarding concerns. You should report any safeguarding concerns directly to the safeguarding team in your local authority.
If you’re not sure of the local authority you need to contact, check on the GOV.UK website.
Sharing your information
If you become aware you have been practising without registration
Steps you must take
You may become aware that you’ve been practising in England without being registered with Social Work England. If so, you must (do all of the following):
- stop practising immediately
- inform your employer of the situation. Any decisions about alternative roles, duties or taking leave is an employment matter. You should be follow your employer’s policies and procedures
- update your work email signature to remove the title. This is so that you do not mislead anyone into thinking you are a registered social worker
- report the period of practising without registration to Social Work England. You can do this by emailing [email protected] or calling us on 0808 196 2274
- if you choose to get support from a representative body, ensure they contact us by emailing [email protected]. They should quote the misuse of title case reference number. This ensures that we can efficiently deal with correspondence from your representative
- You can then make an application to join the register or restore your registration.
Applying to join the register or restore your registration
Before you submit your application, we will ask you to confirm that the information you have provided is accurate. Make sure you are honest about the date you last practised as a social worker (even if this was without registration). It is an offence under regulation 30 to give false or misleading information in order to procure or attempt to procure entry to the register.
If you give false or misleading information, we may (do either of the following):
- deny your application for registration
- remove you from the register at a later date
You could also be prosecuted for this.
We will place your restoration application on hold whilst we investigate your misuse of title case. We will use the outcome of the case as part of our assessment when considering your application to restore.
A case officer will contact you to provide your case reference number.
We will ask for statements from both you and your employer. These statements should explain (all of the following):
- the dates you were practising without registration
- your dates of employment
- your job title
- why you were practising without registration
- what tasks you did without registration
- what your employer knew about your registration status
- what steps your employer took to investigate your registration status
- the level of risk to the public when you did tasks without registration
You can also add any reflection or learning you would like us to consider.
We encourage you to (do both of the following):
- provide your statement as quickly as possible. You should make sure you are thorough and honest
- keep your employer fully informed of progress and engage with them. This is to ensure they also provide their statement as quickly as possible
We may ask either you or your employer for further information. We can do this at any point during the investigation.
The case officer and operations manager will review both statements. They will make sure that you and your employer have answered all of the questions.
Then, our head of registration and advice will also assess both statements. They will decide if (both of the following):
- it would be in the public interest to pursue a prosecution
- the period of practising without registration should be a barrier to you joining the register
Your case officer will send you the outcome of the case by email.
We can’t provide a timescale for these investigations. However, we will keep you fully updated on the progress of the case.
If you have applied to for registration or to restore your registration, your application will remain on hold until we have made a decision on your misuse of title case. We will consider the outcome of the case when we decide whether to add or restore you to the register.
Please contact us if (either of the following apply):
- you can’t use the online form to report a misuse of title
- you need further information about our processes
You can call the registration and advice team on 0808 196 2274 or email [email protected].
First published: 4 September 2023