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Safe and effective practice declarations and fitness to practise self-referrals

This guidance explains our expectations regarding your ability to practise safely and effectively as a social worker.

Safe and effective practice declarations and fitness to practise self-referrals

Last updated: 23 July 2021


About this guidance

This guidance is for social workers, and people who want to join or rejoin the register. It explains our expectations regarding your ability to practise safely and effectively. This means that you need to have the skills, knowledge, character, and health to practise safely and effectively as a social worker.

The guidance will help you decide what (if anything) to declare to us when you apply to:

  • join to the register for the first time
  • restore to the register
  • renew your registration

It will also help you understand when to make a self-referral about your fitness to practise during your registration. Our legal framework requires us to be satisfied that you’re able to practise safely and effectively [note 1].

[note 1] Rules 15 and 50 of registration rules, Regulation 11 (2)b and 25 of the Social Workers Regulations 2018 and rule 3 of the fitness to practise rules 2020.

How we wrote the guidance

We wrote the guidance with input from:

  • social workers
  • social work employers
  • regulatory partners, and
  • people with lived experience of social work

We also drew on the experiences of our fitness to practise and registration teams, and our registration renewal process.

We have also produced guidance for your employer. That guidance aims to help them decide when to raise a fitness to practise concern to us.

How this guidance relates to what we do

Our main objective is to protect the public.

We do this by:

  • setting standards for social work education and training
  • approving the qualifications that allow a person to apply to join the register to become a social worker
  • upholding public confidence in the social workers we regulate
  • setting professional standards, and
  • investigating and acting on concerns about social workers’ fitness to practise.

This guidance relates to the last 3 points:

  • Upholding public confidence in the social workers we regulate
  • Your safe and effective practice (in line with our professional standards)
  • Our fitness to practise process

Safe and effective practice declarations

Declarations in applications

You must declare anything that could affect your ability to practise safely and effectively to us. You will need to make safe and effective practice declarations when you apply to:

  • join the register [note 2]
  • restore your registration [note 3]
  • renew your registration [note 3]

We will guide you through these declarations as part of the applications.
We must be satisfied that you are capable of safe and effective practice in line with the professional standards relating to proficiency, performance, conduct and ethics.

If you make a safe and effective practice declaration on your application, the head of registration can decide to:

  • accept your application
  • refuse your application, or
  • put conditions on your registration.

Once you have registered with us, we will make sure you continue to be capable of safe and effective practice. We do this by asking you to make a declaration every time you renew your registration. If you want to continue to practise, you must apply to renew your registration annually.

[note 2] Regulation 11(2)b of the Social Workers Regulations 2018
[note 3]Rule 50 1(b) of the registration rules
[note 4] Regulation 13(4) of the Social Workers Regulations 2018

Fitness to practise self-referrals

When to self-refer during your registration

If your situation changes during your registration, you may need to self-refer. A self-referral is when you tell us about something that may affect your ability to practise safely and effectively. This may call into question your fitness to practise.

If there has been a change to your fitness to practise, you must tell us about it as soon as possible. This includes criminal offences and investigations. We understand that it may be more complicated to tell us about your fitness to practise through a self-referral. But please do not wait to tell us until you apply to renew your registration.

If you submit a self-referral, we will engage with you throughout the process.

Where you (or your employer) cannot manage any potential risk to the public, we may need to take action. This is to protect public confidence in the profession and to uphold the professional standards. We deal with self-referrals through our fitness to practise processes.

What we mean by fitness to practise

There is no agreed legal definition of fitness to practise. But it is generally understood to mean: ‘The current suitability of the social worker to hold registration and practise without restriction.’

To be a social worker in England you must be registered with us and be fit to practise. By ‘fit to practise’ we mean that you can practise safely, effectively, and without restriction, because you have the relevant:

  • skills
  • knowledge (including knowledge of the English language)
  • character, and
  • health.

Determining your fitness to practise involves assessing both your current and future situation. These may be different to the situation that you were in when the events (which caused us to consider your fitness to practise) occurred. It also involves assessing whether your practice, conduct or behaviour may pose a risk to the public now or in the future.

Fitness to practise is not just about professional performance. It is also about your conduct outside the workplace. This includes doing something that could damage public confidence in the profession. For example, an act resulting in criminal investigations. Following an investigation, we can decide that your fitness to practise is impaired. This means that we have identified serious concerns about your:

  • character, or
  • ability to practise.

We can take several different actions, such as:

  • restricting your practice following an investigation, or
  • issue an order which restricts or removes your ability to practise immediately while our investigation takes place. We only do this in the most serious cases.

Fitness to practise process map

 

Map of the fitness to practise process.

  1. The concern is considered by the triage team. If the concern does not meet the triage test, it is closed. If it does meet the triage test, a case is opened. 
  2. The case then goes through investigation and is prepared for the case examiners. 
  3. The case examiners then decide whether to refer the case to the adjudicators straight away, close the case with an outcome (warning, advice or no action) or close the case through accepted disposal.
  4. If the social worker does not agree to accepted disposal, the case is referred to the adjudicators. If the social worker agrees, the concern is closed. If the case examiners close the case with an outcome of warning, advice or no action, agreement is not necessary from the social worker.

If there is a concern about your fitness to practise

Your fitness to practise may be called into question following concerns about your:

  • social work practice, or
  • personal conduct.

Our process is not about assigning blame or punishment for past mistakes. This means that your past actions might not affect your ability to practise now. This may be because you have taken steps to regain your fitness to practise. We call this ‘remediation’.

If we receive a concern about you (including a self-referral), we will decide if we need to open an investigation. We do this by applying our triage test. Our triage test helps us decide if there are reasonable grounds to investigate your fitness to practise. When we apply the triage test, we carefully consider all the information given to us.

When making this decision, we apply the following criteria:

  • The seriousness of the concern by reference to the pursuit of the regulator’s over-arching objective
  • The likely availability of sufficient evidence to support an allegation of impaired fitness to practise
  • The concern suggests the registered social worker may have breached any relevant published professional or ethical guidance, Rules, regulations, procedures or laws in place at the time of the events giving rise to the concern
  • The outcome of, and subsequent actions arising from, an investigation carried out by a body referred to in regulation 7
  • Whether the registered social worker is taking, or has successfully completed, remedial actions in respect of the concern, and
  • Whether the registered social worker has been subject to an adverse finding in any previous investigations by the regulator, its predecessors, or a body referred to in regulation 7, into matters relevant to the registered social worker’s fitness to practise.

Triage decisions are made by made by senior members of the fitness to practise team, supported by social workers and lawyers. More information can be found in our triage guidance.

Professional standards

The professional standards set out what a social worker in England must know, understand and do throughout their career. It’s a requirement of registration that you comply with our professional standards [note 5].

We expect all social workers to meet and uphold these standards throughout their registration. They are necessary for safe and effective practice.

When we consider fitness to practise concerns, one of the things that we will assess is whether there has been a breach of our professional standards. You must comply with these standards to stay on our register. If you fail to do, we may take this into account in fitness to practise proceedings [note 6].

The professional standards are:

  1. Promote the rights, strengths and wellbeing of people, families and communities
  2. Establish and maintain the trust and confidence of people
  3. Be accountable for the quality of my practice and the decisions I make
  4. Maintain my continuing professional development
  5. Act safely, respectfully and with professional integrity
  6. Promote ethical practice and report concerns

Standard 6.6 requires you to notify us of anything that may affect your ability to practise safely and effectively.

Standard 6.6 says that as a social worker you will:

‘Declare to the appropriate authority and Social Work England anything that might affect my ability to do my job competently or may affect my fitness to practise, or if I am subject to criminal proceedings or a regulatory finding is made against me, anywhere in the world.’

We will provide more information about what you need to refer to us later in this guidance. If you are in doubt, you can get independent advice, such as from a trade union.

[note 5] The Social Work England (Registration) Rules 2019, rule 22(7)
[note 6] The Social Work England (Registration) Rules 2019, rule 21(2)(c)

What you need to declare

Things that impact your fitness to practise include (but are not limited to):

  • convictions, cautions, penalty notices or being investigated for a criminal offence
  • findings by other regulatory bodies. For example, if another regulator (that you are also registered with) finds that your fitness to practise is impaired
  • disciplinary proceedings
  • being barred from working with children or vulnerable adults
  • health conditions that affect your ability to carry out your usual duties as a social worker
  • employment proceedings

We will explain these situations in more detail below.

Criminal proceedings

Convictions, cautions and investigations

You must declare to us any charges, convictions or cautions that’ve been issued to you in the UK or any other country [note 7]. You must also tell us if you’re being investigated for a criminal offence in the UK or any other country. Our regulatory powers mean that all registered social workers in England must disclose these matters. You must also tell us if you have been charged with an offence but have not yet been found guilty or not guilty.

We may consider whether your actions were dishonest if you do not disclose them:

  • at the point of applying to join (or rejoin) the register
  • at the point of applying to renew your registration, or
  • as a self-referral after you’ve joined the register.

If you have committed an offence outside the UK (that may be equivalent to an offence in the UK) we would recommend that you seek independent expert or legal advice. This is to check whether you need to tell us about it.

You must declare:

  • any charges, convictions and cautions issued in the UK or any other country unless they’re ‘protected’ (see below for details on protected convictions and cautions),
  • all road traffic convictions or cautions unless they’re ‘protected’ (see below for details on protected convictions and cautions),
  • all offences for which you’ve been convicted in a military court or tribunal, and
  • any charges of or investigations for a criminal offence.

You should provide as much information as possible about any convictions or cautions. This is to allow us to make a decision about whether they affect your safe and effective practice.

We will only investigate the situation if we believe it affects your ability to practise safely and effectively. Or if it is so serious it could undermine public confidence in the profession.

If we need more information, we will contact you.

You must provide the following information:

  • Details of the offence
  • The date you received the conviction or caution or when the investigation started
  • The name and contact details of the court or authority, if known
  • Any other information you believe will help to explain the circumstances that led to the conviction or caution.

Our professional standards also require you to tell us if you’re under investigation.

If you’re being investigated, this alone is not a ground of impairment, or necessarily evidence of misconduct. But we will need to investigate to ensure the protection of the public.

[note 7] The Social Work England (Registration) Rules 2019, rule 15(1) and 15(2).

Penalty notices

You must also declare any:

  • fixed penalty notices
  • penalty notices for disorder
  • harassment notices issued to you in the UK or any other country
  • road traffic offences where you have paid a fixed penalty notice (for example, speeding offences or civil matters such as parking tickets)
  • fixed penalty notices, penalty notices for disorder, or harassment notices issued in Scotland. These are protected from disclosure by amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Please provide the following information about each notice you have received:

  • Details of the offence
  • The date you received the notice
  • The name and contact details of the authority who issued you with the notice (if known)
  • Any other information that will help to explain the circumstances that led to the notice being issued
Example 1: you must make a self-referral

The concern:
You have been stopped and breathalysed and found to be over the legal drink drive limit. You are charged and are awaiting prosecution. You plan to inform your manager.

Our response:
You must make a self-referral to us. This incident raises a concern about your fitness to practise. We would also expect a concern to be raised by your employer. This is also a matter of public interest. The public would not expect a social worker who is being prosecuted for such concerns to practise without consideration of their fitness to practise.

Example 2: you do not need to make a self-referral

The concern:
You have been issued a fixed penalty notice for a speeding offence.

Our response:
You do not need to make a self-referral to us. This is because receiving a fixed penalty notice for a speeding does not raise a question about your ability to practise safely and effectively as a social worker.

Protected cautions and convictions

Some convictions and cautions are protected by law. This means that you do not need to declare them to us. If you do tell us about a protected offence, we will not take it into account when we assess your application.

Protected cautions

A caution is protected, and you do not need to tell us about it if both of the following apply:

  • More than 6 years have passed since you received the caution (or more than 2 years have passed if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the caution), and
  • It’s not for an offence listed by the DBS

Protected convictions

A conviction is protected, and you do not need to tell us about it if all of the following apply:

  • More than 11 years have passed since the date of conviction (or more than 5 years and 6 months have passed if you were under the age of 18 when convicted), and
  • It’s not for an offence listed by the DBS as one that will never be protected, and
  • You did not receive a custodial sentence, and
  • You have not been convicted of any other offence at any time

The law on whether a conviction or caution is protected is complex. If you’re not sure, we recommend that you seek independent expert or legal advice. This is to check whether you need to tell us about it.

Listed offences

The offences we recognise as listed offences are specified in our legislation [note 8] and include serious violent or sexual offences. They also include other offences that are relevant to the role of a social worker [note 9].

You will not be eligible for registration if you’ve been convicted of a listed offence. We will automatically remove you from the register.
You must also tell us if you’ve committed an offence abroad that would be considered a listed offence in England [note 10].

If you’re aware that you have committed an offence overseas that may be equivalent to an offence in the UK, you should seek independent expert or legal advice to check whether you need to tell us about it.

[note 8] Schedule 3 of the Social Workers Regulations 2018
[note 9] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, Schedule 3
[note 10] The Social Work England registration rules 2019, rule 13(2)

What happens if I disclose a conviction, caution, penalty notice or investigation?

If you disclose a conviction, caution, penalty notice or investigation for an offence, we’ll assess whether this is likely to impact:

  • your ability to practise safely and effectively, or
  • the reputation of the profession.

If you disclose a conviction, caution or penalty notice we’ll take into account:

  • the nature of the offence
  • when it occurred, and
  • whether you have committed any other offences.

We’ll also take into account any details you provide about the circumstances surrounding the offence. As part of the assessment of your application to join the register, we will ask you to provide a recent copy of your DBS certificate.

We may contact the police to verify any details you provide about your convictions, cautions, penalty notices or investigations to help us decide whether your fitness to practise will be affected. We may also ask for sentencing documents and further information in order for us to complete our assessment.

Barred from working with vulnerable groups

You must also tell us about any changes to your circumstances that bar you from working with vulnerable groups. This includes if you are:

  • listed on the adults’ or children’s list under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007
  • listed on the adults’ and or children’s list under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007
  • subject to a barring order under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006), or
  • barred from working with vulnerable people in any other country.

If any of these apply to you, you’ll need to provide us with the following details [note 11]:

  • The date you were barred from working with children or vulnerable adults
  • Name and contact details of the organisation that barred you from working with children or vulnerable adults
  • Any other information that you believe will help us to understand the circumstances that led to the decision

[note 11] The Social Work England (Registration) Rules 2019, rule 15 (4)

Health conditions

We use the term ‘health condition’ to mean an illness, injury, disability, or impairment.

Why we ask about health conditions

We ask about health conditions because we need to know that the people on our register are able to fulfil their role as a social worker safely and effectively.

Our focus is whether you have a health condition that could adversely or negatively affect your practice. We do not need to know about health conditions that you’re able to manage effectively.

Health conditions you do not need to disclose

Many people with health conditions are able to practise safely and effectively. For example, you may be receiving support or treatment from a health care professional.

The fact that you have a health condition does not impair your fitness to practise. You may still be able to practise with or without adjustments to support you.

The important questions to ask before declaring a health condition are:

  1. Am I managing my health condition?
  2. Do I have sufficient insight to limit my practice as necessary to protect the public while registered as a social worker?
Support at work

Additionally, your employer has a responsibility to discuss what reasonable adjustments they can provide to support you at work.

If your employer is not providing adequate support to help you manage your health condition and enable you to work safely and effectively, you should raise it with them.

It may also be that you are signed off as ‘unfit for work’ due to ill health. That does not necessarily mean that your fitness to practise is currently impaired. This is because you have amended your practice, in this example, by being away from work.

Health conditions you need to disclose

You must tell us about a health condition if both of the following apply:

  • Your health condition affects, or could affect, your ability to perform your role as a social worker safely and effectively. This includes any episodic or occasional conditions that may affect your ability to practise safely and effectively if you experience a recurrence.
  • You do not have arrangements in place that manage the health condition and allow you to perform your role as a social worker safely and effectively.
    If both of the above criteria apply to your health condition, you should make a self-referral.

We will need to know more about the effect your health condition may have on your ability to perform your role. We will also need to know what steps you and your employer (where appropriate), are taking towards managing the condition.

An occupational health assessment does not necessarily confirm that you are capable of safe and effective practice. The main aim of an occupational health assessment is to advise employers on the employee's health and make recommendations on what adjustments could be considered.

You should include the following information in your application or self-referral:

  • The nature and seriousness of your health condition, including whether it is ongoing or episodic (occasional)
  • How your condition may affect your ability to practise safely and effectively
  • What steps you’re taking to manage your health condition (for example medication or reduced hours) and how effective these are
  • Whether you’ve made your employer aware of your condition
  • Any relevant dates of occurrences and treatment

Self-referral and disability

Having a disability does not necessarily mean your fitness to practise is impaired.

However, if you do disclose a disability, we are required to ask you for more information to make sure it does not affect your ability to practise safely and effectively.

If you are managing your disability and it does not affect your practice, then you do not need to declare it to us.

When to tell us about health conditions

You need to tell us about any physical or mental health conditions that may impact your ability to practise safely and effectively as a social worker [note 12] when you apply to:

  • join the register
  • restore your registration
  • renew your registration.

You must also tell us immediately if your health:

  • changes at any point during your registration, and
  • this change could affect your ability to practise safely and effectively.

[note 12] The Social Work England (Registration) Rules 2019, rule 15 (5)

What happens if I disclose a health condition?

If you declare a health condition to us, we’ll treat this matter sensitively as we know it may cause you additional concerns.

We’ll need to be sure that you understand your condition and how it effects your safe and effective practice. We need to know that you’ve considered how certain aspects of your practice may be affected. We also need to know that you have taken appropriate steps to make sure you do not put yourself or others at risk.

We’ll consider the information you have provided on a case by case basis. In some cases, we may need to speak to your doctor or other treating clinician. We will always let you know that we’re doing this. Sometimes we will have to use our regulatory powers to get more information from a third party, even if you have told us that you do not agree.

All information regarding your health will be treated in the strictest confidence and will only be shared with people who need it to deal with your declaration or self-referral.

Any health declarations or self-referral and associated evidence will be retained in accordance with our information governance processes.

Example 3: you do not need to make a self-referral

The concern:
You have discussed several health concerns with your manager. This is because you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. You have a history of repeated ill health absence. You have been referred to occupational health and reasonable adjustments have been made to your work patterns. You and your employer now have a plan in place to manage your health needs.

Our response:
You do not need to make a self-referral to us. There is evidence that your health issues are being managed appropriately by you and your employer. A plan of support is in place and there is no evidence that the health issues have an impact on your fitness to practise.

Example 4: you do not need to make a self-referral

The concern:
You have shared in supervision that you are experiencing stress related symptoms. You are not sleeping and experiencing anxiety attacks. You have spoken to your GP who has prescribed anti-depressants and provided you with a sick note for 4 weeks. You have been offered and have accepted support from your employee assistance system.

Our response:
You do not need to make a self-referral to us. There is evidence that your health issues are being managed appropriately by you. You have appropriately shared your health issues with your manager and shown insight into your health needs. There is a plan of support in place and there is no evidence that the health issues have an impact on your fitness to practise.

Example 5: you must make a self-referral

The concern:
You have a mental health condition that you have previously been able to successfully manage with medication and reasonable adjustments from your employer. However, your situation is now getting worse, and you are struggling to manage your condition and your work.

Our response:
You must make a self-referral to us. Your health issues are not being managed effectively and may have an impact on your fitness to practise.

Findings by other bodies

If you’re registered with another regulatory body who finds your fitness to practise to be impaired, you must tell us immediately. This includes regulators outside the social work profession.

If a regulatory body finds your fitness to practise to be impaired, you must provide the following information:

  • The name and contact details of the regulatory body that found your fitness to practise to be impaired.
  • The date they made their decision.
  • The outcome of your fitness to practise case (for example, whether you were suspended or removed from the register).
  • Any further details about the case that’ll help to us understand the circumstances that led to the decision.

Employment proceedings

If you’re the subject of an employment investigation (which might also raise fitness to practise concerns), your employer should follow their normal procedure to decide whether this should be raised with us.

We do not need to know about all performance or disciplinary issues. But you must tell us if you have been involved in any disciplinary proceedings at work that could affect your fitness to practise and/or are regarded as serious.

Where the concerns are particularly serious, or raise significant risks, you and your employer would need to make an immediate referral for us. This is so we can decide if an interim order is needed to restrict your practice.

Our professional standards do not require you to tell us if you have been suspended from work. What is important however, is that you tell us immediately if the concerns raised by your employer are serious enough to affect your fitness to practise.

Serious misconduct can occur both in your professional and personal life. There is no single way to define ‘seriousness’. There are a number of factors to consider when determining if a concern is serious, including:

  • the risk of repetition
  • harm
  • remediation
  • breaches of guidance or rules.

It may be helpful to consider the triage guidance in terms of what we mean by ‘seriousness’.

Our guidance for employers aims to support your employer to decide what to refer to us and when. It’s not for your employer to decide whether you’re not meeting the professional standards. That is the role of the regulator. But the professional standards must be a point of reference when they determine whether a concern needs to be raised with us.

We expect all employers to consider their duties under the Equality Act 2010 when they consider whether to raise a concern.

If you’re making a self-referral because you’ve been involved in disciplinary proceedings at work, you should provide us with the following information:

  • The date the proceedings started
  • What the proceedings are about
  • The outcome of the proceedings (if known)
  • The name and contact details of the organisation taking proceedings
  • Any supporting documents you want to include in the self-referral

Employment matters that we cannot deal with

Depending on the circumstances and the seriousness, you may not need to self-refer. This is because some issues are unlikely to also raise fitness to practise concerns. They are more appropriately dealt with through your employer’s performance or disciplinary process.

Employment matters that do not need to be referred to us include (but are not limited to):

  • Persistent lateness, poor timekeeping or unauthorised leave, unless it has a direct impact on a person’s care.
  • Personality conflicts, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment.
  • Disputes between you and your employer or manager, providing there is no evidence of bullying or harassment. You may want to refer to your own internal guidance around bullying and harassment and consider ACAS guidance on bullying and harassment and work.
  • Sickness absence, unless there is evidence of misconduct (such as dishonesty) or if you are not managing your health and the public is at risk.
  • Other contractual or breach of local policy issues, unless it raises serious concerns about your conduct or character.
Example 6: you do not need to make a self-referral

The concern:
Issues have been raised with you about your case recording. The local authority have followed their internal procedures. They have agreed an improvement plan with you and provided support and training over a time specific period.

Our response:
You do not need to make a self-referral to us. You have been through a capability investigation by the employer. The outcome of the investigation has been to implement an improvement plan to manage your performance.

Example 7: you must make a self-referral

The concern:
There is an allegation that you have breached professional boundaries in relation to a child known to the local authority. The allegations are that you have inappropriately been meeting a young person outside of working hours. You have been sending personal and inappropriate messages to them via social media. The local authority has initiated an internal investigation and referred the matter to the designated officer.

Our response:
You must make a self-referral to us. Due to the seriousness of the concern (that you may have an inappropriate relationship with a child) we would need to consider whether an interim order is needed to restrict your practice, pending the outcome of the investigation. There is a public interest element as the public would not expect a social worker who is being investigated for such concerns to practise without restriction.

Anything else that may impair your fitness to practise

Our professional standards require you to declare to us anything that might affect your ability to do your job competently, or that could affect your fitness to practise.

This includes circumstances where your actions (or inactions) have placed either a child or a vulnerable adult at risk of significant harm which has resulted in a statutory intervention.

You need to tell us about anything you think may affect your fitness to practise even if it does not fit into one of the previous sections.

Please provide us with as much information as possible to help us decide on next steps.

Example 8: you must make a self-referral

The concern:
There is an allegation that you have assaulted your elderly father on at least 2 occasions. An anonymous referral has been made to the local authority. Your father has also reported the abuse to employees of a care agency. An adult safeguarding referral has been made.

Our response:
You must make a self-referral to us. Due to the seriousness of the concern (that you may be abusing a vulnerable adult), we would need to consider whether an interim order is needed to restrict your practice, pending the outcome of the investigation. There is a public interest element as the public would not expect a social worker who is being investigated for such concerns to practise without restriction.

Example 9: you do not need to make a self-referral

The concern:
You are the sole carer of a child with a disability. The child has a statutory intervention of a child in need plan only because of their disability. The child has an allocated social worker, and the support plan includes direct payments and respite care.

Our response:
You do not need to make a self-referral to us. The statutory intervention with the child is not due to any action or inaction that placed them at risk. The statutory intervention does not raise any concerns about your ability to practise safely and effectively.

How to tell us

You must declare anything that could affect your ability to practise safely and effectively. You will need to make safe and effective practice declarations when you apply to:

  • join the register
  • restore your registration
  • renew your registration

When applying to renew your registration, you will be asked if 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.

If there has been a change to your fitness to practise, you must tell us about it as soon as possible by making a self-referral.

Make a self-referral

To make a self-referral, you need to download and complete the relevant form.

View self-referral forms.

How to submit the self-referral form

You can submit your self-referral form by email to: [email protected]

You can also submit your form by post to: Social Work England, Triage Team, 1 North Bank, Blonk Street, Sheffield, S3 8JY.

Honesty and integrity

Honesty is at the heart of public trust and confidence in social work. It is also an important part of the professional standards and safe and effective practice.

It’s important to be honest when making a declaration or self-referral. If you give false or misleading information, we may remove you from the register [note 13].

You must tell us as soon as possible if any of your details change. It’s your responsibility to make sure all the information we hold about you is up-to-date and accurate throughout your registration.

Failure to inform us of any changes as soon as possible could lead to you being suspended or removed from the register [note 14].

[note 13] The Social Work England registration rules 2019, rule 21(2)(b)
[note 14] The Social Workers Regulations 2018, reg 16(1)

More information

If you need any more information, or support with the self-referral process, please call us on 0808 196 2274 or email us at [email protected]

Other helpful information:

Version history

Lat updated: 23 July 2021

  • Changes made to make the guidance more accessible and user-friendly following feedback from the sector, including social workers, social work employers, regulatory partners, and people with lived experience of social work, alongside experiences of our first year of regulation.
  • Examples added to help applicants and social workers to better understand if they need to self-refer.

First published: 1 December 2019

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