Guidance on returning to practice as a temporary social worker, our professional standards, employer responsibilities, fitness to practise, and leaving the register after the emergency has ended.
Last updated: 21 October 2021
- About this guidance
- Our emergency powers
- Returning to the register
- Employer responsibilities
- Meeting our professional standards
- Fitness to practise
- Closing the list of temporary registrations
About this guidance
Social workers protect millions of people every day. Now, more than ever, they’re offering key support for people, families and communities, and contributing to vital services in response to COVID-19.
Through recent legislation, we've been given powers by the Secretary of State to enact an emergency register. This means that previously registered social workers in England who left the register after 18 March 2018, and who were not removed from the register following a fitness to practise decision, will automatically be placed on a temporary register and can return to practice should they wish to do so.
During this time, those with temporary registration will be able to use the protected title of ‘social worker’.
This page provides guidance on Social Work England’s emergency powers, returning to practice as a temporary social worker, our professional standards, employer responsibilities, fitness to practise, and leaving the register after the emergency has ended.
Our emergency powers
The Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced emergency registration powers that enable us to allow social workers who have left the register since March 2018 to re-join the register temporarily.
This list of temporary social workers is designed to facilitate the return of social workers to practice and to maintain vital support to people. We are also granting temporary registration to anyone that has had their voluntary removal request approved since 18 March 2018. This means that the list is updated to remove those who opt-out using our online form.
In a continued emergency, we recognise that there may be a demand for additional categories of people to be registered temporarily. This may mean including people who have demonstrated many, but not all, of the required knowledge and skills or who have less recent experience of social work practice.
We will maintain close contact with the UK government and devolved administrations to identify whether any further categories of people may need to be registered. Our overarching objective is to protect the public and any action we take will seek to balance the need to support the social work workforce with our responsibility of minimising risk to public safety. For more information, read the Children and Social Work Act 2017 – P2, Section 37.
The Act enables both the rapid temporary registration of social workers and allows for the exemption of certain provisions of the Social Workers Regulations 2018 for those with temporary registration. These are outlined below.
We do not currently have a time limit on emergency registration but on the 8 and 9 November 2021, we will begin to remove social workers who left the register over 2 years ago.
We will remove all social workers with temporary registration when the Secretary of State advises that the circumstances leading to a notification of an emergency no longer exist. For more information, read Coronavirus Act 2020 – Ch 7, P1, Schedule 5.
Once this happens, the emergency register ceases to have effect after 14 days. However, we may revoke a person’s registration at any time, in which case registration will cease immediately and they will be removed from the list of temporary social workers.
Returning to the register
You can find the list of social workers with temporary registration on the COVID-19 temporary registration page. Social workers with temporary coronavirus registration are also listed on our public register. The register is updated in real time, so information held on there is always up to date.
The social worker’s name, registration number and nearest local authority (if known) is included. We have written to those eligible for temporary registration via the last known postal address to confirm entry onto the list of returning social workers.
If your name is not on the list but you think it should be, please send an email to [email protected] with your name, registration number (if known) and the date you left the register.
Social workers who are temporarily registered will not have to pay a registration fee and they will be held on the register until the end of the emergency. Those on the list of temporary social workers are under no obligation to return to social work practice, and may opt out by completing this form.
The group of people we have added to the temporary register does not include anyone who has been previously removed through fitness to practise.
A former social worker wishing to apply to re-join the register during or after the emergency, whether or not they were on the temporary register, can apply for restoration.
There is increasing demand for returning social workers as the profession responds to COVID-19, but we cannot guarantee that being on the list of temporary social workers will lead to employment. More information on connecting with employers can be found at the Social Work Together deployment tool.
Employment of social workers, including those with temporary registration, continues to be the responsibility of social work employers. Employers are also required to undertake appropriate due diligence for social workers on the temporary register, just as they would for any social worker. This includes the necessary Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. The DBS provides additional guidance for expediting checks.
The emergency situation means that we will not be making any safe and effective practice checks as we would with new applicants. Employers are responsible for ensuring that anyone returning to social work can evidence safe and effective practice.
Under normal circumstances, we normally check the following when assessing applications to return to the register:
- proof of any name changes that have occurred since the individual was last registered, such as a marriage certificate
- details of the qualification that entitles the applicant to join the register
- details of any criminal convictions or cautions that the applicant has not yet disclosed to Social Work England or the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), except those that are protected
- details of any health conditions not yet disclosed to Social Work England or HCPC that could affect practice as a social worker
- details of any occasions when an applicant’s fitness to practise has been found to be impaired by any regulatory body that have not yet been disclosed to Social Work England or the HCPC
- evidence of updating skills and knowledge (if they have have left the register for more than two years)
- in some circumstances, up-to-date evidence of an applicant’s knowledge of English
Under the temporary registration provisions, we will not have made these checks for anyone with temporary registration. Employers must therefore undertake their own checks before employing anyone with temporary registration.
Meeting our professional standards
Temporary social workers are required to meet our professional standards. However, we will not require that they meet standard 4 which focuses on continuing professional development (CPD).
As registered professionals, the first concern of the individuals on our register will be the safety and wellbeing of the public. We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, social workers may need to depart from established procedures in order to support people.
As outlined in the joint statement from the chief executives of the health and social care professional regulators, our regulatory standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision making in a wide range of situations
Fitness to practise
We recognise that individuals returning to the profession may feel anxious about how context will be taken into account if concerns are raised about their decisions and actions, particularly in these very challenging circumstances.
Where a concern is raised about a temporary social worker it will always be considered on the specific facts of the matter, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which they are working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.
Our emergency registration powers state that we may remove an individual from the list of temporary social workers at any time, including if we suspect that their fitness to practise may be impaired. For more information, read Coronavirus Act 2020 –Ch 7, Schedule 5, 6.a.
We do not need to follow our established fitness to practise procedure if we have concerns about the fitness to practise of an individual that has been temporarily registered. If we receive a concern about a temporary social worker, we will apply the triage test used in our fitness to practise process to determine whether further action is required.
This involves assessing the nature and extent of the risk to public safety by applying the criteria in rule 3 of the fitness to practise rules. This will allow us to quickly assess whether we consider that the social worker is able to carry out their role safely and effectively, or whether continuing to allow temporary registration could potentially undermine trust and confidence in the social work profession. This assessment will be conducted by a senior decision maker in our triage team.
Once we have reviewed the evidence, we will revoke the temporary registration of an individual if the threshold in the triage test is met. Where the information we have received is insufficient to make a decision, we may seek further information from the individual raising the concern or the social worker in question before making a final decision.
The revoking of temporary registration means we will immediately remove the social worker from the list of temporary social workers and they will no longer be able to practise.
If we decide to not revoke their temporary registration, the social worker will remain in practice under existing arrangements until the emergency has ended and they are removed from the register, alongside the other temporary social workers.
In circumstances where an individual has been removed, the reasons for the removal will be communicated to the social worker. A copy of that letter and the evidence leading to the removal decision will be retained against the individual’s registration record.
If that individual makes an application for restoration to the register at any point in the future, this information will be considered under regulation 11(2)(b) as part of the decision on whether the individual is capable of safe and effective practice. For more information, read Social Workers Regulations (2018), Part 3, Regulation 11.
Closing the list of temporary registrations
On the 8 and 9 November 2021, we will begin to remove people with temporary registration from our register. This will include people who left the register over 2 years ago. This is to assist us in our primary aim of public protection.
Once we receive notification from the Secretary of State that the emergency is over, we will revoke all temporary registrations. This will come into effect automatically after 14 days. For more information, read Coronavirus Act 2020 –Ch 7, P1, Schedule 5.
Any practice hours which have been completed by any registered social worker during any period of temporary registration will count as practice hours for the purpose of any future application for readmission to the register. However, this will be subject to the same verification and endorsement as any restoration application.