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Periods of adaptation

This guidance is for people who’ve applied to join the register and have been asked to undertake a period of adaptation.

Periods of adaptation

Last updated: 27 November 2019


About this guidance

This guidance is for people who’ve applied to join the register and have been asked to undertake a period of adaptation.


Periods of adaptation

What is a period of adaptation?

A period of adaptation is a period of supervised practice and/or academic training. It’s designed to make up for any significant shortfalls in your application to join our register. These short falls are the areas where your education, training or experience have not met our standards for registration.

A period of adaptation is supervised by a registered social worker. Once you’ve completed your period of adaptation, your supervisor will tell us whether or not they recommend you for registration.

European law requires us to offer those with certain European rights a period of adaptation to allow them the chance to meet our requirements for registration. This legislation makes sure people who are qualified to work in specific professions, such as social work, are able to practise their profession throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. We also offer periods of adaptation to overseas applicants who are qualified to practise social work outside the EEA and Switzerland.

For more information see:

How​ do you decide if I need a period of adaptation?

When you apply to join our register with a qualification from the EEA or overseas, you’ll need to give us details about your education, training and experience. It’s your responsibility to provide as much information as possible so we can make an informed decision about your application.

Your application is then reviewed individually by 2 registration advisers. These are registered social workers who work with us as partners. When assessing your application, our registration advisers will consider how your education and training meets our education and training standards. These set out what we expect from social work course providers for qualifications and training.

Our registration advisers will also look at how your application meets Social Work England’s professional standards. These are set at the minimum level we feel is necessary for safe and effective practice. We’ll also verify any evidence that you submit with your application with the relevant body. This might be your course provider or the regulatory body you were previously registered with, if applicable.

Once your application has been assessed, and following advice from our registration advisers, we may take one of the following actions:

  • Inform you that your application meets our requirements for registration. You will then be able to pay your registration fee and join the register.
  • Ask for further verification. This is specific additional information to help us make a decision about your application, such as further information about your qualifications or experience.
  • Ask you to undertake a period of adaptation. This will be the case if our registration advisers have identified significant shortfalls between your education, training and experience and the standards you must meet to join our register.

We’ll let you know our decision within 60 working days of you submitting your application. If you’re asked to undertake a period of adaptation but you believe you meet the required standards, you’re entitled to request a test of competence (see ‘Are there any alternatives to a period of adaptation?’). In legislation, these are referred to as ‘aptitude tests’.

For more information see:

How long is a period of adaptation?

If we ask you to undertake a period of adaptation, we’ll send you our reasons for this decision. This will outline the areas of your education, knowledge or skills in which we feel you have not demonstrated how you meet our standards.

We’ll tell you how long you’ll need to spend in each area to gain the experience necessary to meet our standards for registration. If your supervisor thinks you’ve completed the requirements of your period of adaptation in a shorter period of time than we advised, they may recommend you for registration at this point.

Alternatively, if at the end of the recommended period your supervisor feels you have not fully met our requirements, they may extend the period of adaptation at their discretion. There is no time limit for the completion of a period of adaptation. However, depending on the length of your period of adaptation, we may require you to update the information you provided in your application.

Where can I undertake my period of adaptation?

A period of adaptation is usually undertaken in asocial work setting in England. Your supervisor must be registered with Social Work England and have been registered as a social worker in England for at least 3 years.

If a period of adaptation is undertaken outside England, it must still be supervised by a current Social Work England registered social worker. Sometimes, a period of adaptation will also include further study, for example taking a course module at an English university.

If you’ve been asked to undertake a period of adaptation, it’s your responsibility to arrange a suitable placement. We cannot help you find or fund a placement. Not all employers will be able to support a period of adaptation. This might be because of a lack of resources or the training needs of other staff.

When arranging your period of adaptation, you need to make sure you will cover all the areas identified by our registration advisers. You should discuss these areas with any potential supervisor to make sure you’ll be able to get the experience you need.

Safe and effective practice

During your period of adaptation, you must make sure you follow any instructions given to you by your supervisor. You should always ask for help or advice from your supervisor if you do not understand an instruction or if you do not feel able to carry out a task safely and effectively.

It’s important you act within the limits of your skills and experience and get help from others when necessary. The health and wellbeing of the people you support should be your main concern at all times.

Are there any alternatives to a period of adaptation?

If you disagree with our decision asking you to undertake a period of adaptation, you may request a test of competence.

A test of competence is an interview during which you’ll be asked questions about various areas relevant to social work. The areas covered in your interview will be determined by the areas of your education, knowledge or skills our registration advisers thought fell below the required standards.

The test of competence gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you do in fact meet the standards required to join our register. If you pass the test of competence, you’ll be eligible for registration.

If you wish to take a test of competence, you should inform us in writing by emailing [email protected] or sending your request to: Registration and Advice Team, Social Work England, 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY9.

For more information see:


Guidance for employers and supervisors

This section of the guidance is for people who’ve been asked to supervise a period of adaptation (‘supervisors’) and employers.

As an employer, do I have to offer an adaptation placement?

As an employer, you are under no obligation to provide a period of adaptation. We recognise that workload and resource pressures may mean that you are not able to support a person seeking a period of adaptation.

We cannot provide any funding for this. However, offering a period of adaptation has a number of benefits. For example, the activity of supervising or providing support during a period of adaptation can be a useful opportunity for existing staff to gain and develop important teaching and mentoring skills. This can also contribute towards your employees’ continuing professional development (CPD).

Additionally, once an applicant has completed their period of adaptation and achieved registration, they may be a good candidate for employment because of their familiarity with your processes.

Who can supervise a period of adaptation?

To supervise a period of adaptation, you must have been registered to practise as a social worker in England for at least 3 years and currently be on the Social Work England register.

As with any other aspect of professional practice, you must have sufficient knowledge, experience and training to take on this role. This might include experience of teaching, supervising or mentoring others, as well as experience of assessing performance. You will also need to have a good understanding of Social Work England’s professional standards.

The role of a supervisor

Supervisors have an important role to play in supporting and supervising applicants who are undertaking a period of adaptation. As a supervisor, your role will be to support the applicant and help them to meet our standards. This may be done through teaching, mentoring and overseeing supervised practice.

Before you begin your supervisory role, you’ll need to see a copy of the assessment we sent to the person you’ve agreed to supervise. This will outline the areas where we found significant shortfalls in the applicant’s skills and knowledge and will help you structure their period of adaptation to help them meet these needs.

You should meet with the applicant before the period of adaptation begins to discuss the planned structure of their period of adaptation. You should also agree how you will assess whether they have met the standards required for registration.

You can send a scanned copy of your report to [email protected], or post it to: Registration and Advice Team, Social Work England, 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY.

The final decision as to whether the applicant is eligible for registration will be made by our head of registration. The head of registration will consider all the information in your report when making their decision and may contact you for more information if necessary. We’ll write to the applicant directly to let them know our decision.

Safe and effective practice

As a registered professional, your main responsibility is to the people you support. You must consider the applicant’s ability to undertake tasks safely and effectively when deciding which tasks you ask them to perform. This requires you to exercise your professional judgment and will also depend on the policies and protocols of your workplace.

If you have any concerns about your role as a supervisor or about the way the applicant is working during their period of adaptation, you should tell a more senior manager or consider suspending the placement. You can also contact us.


Further information

For more information about periods of adaptation, please call us on 0808 196 2274 or email us at [email protected].

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