As the government gets ready to overhaul the social work sector, Researching Reform has created a petition calling on the government to make registration with new monitoring body, Social Work England, a legal requirement for anyone engaging in social work.

At the moment not everyone who is carrying out social work needs to register with an independent monitoring body. Despite there being a large range of titles used by social workers, the current guidelines only cover people calling themselves a ‘social worker’, which is what’s known as a protected title. This loophole means a significant portion of social workers engaging in a variety of social work roles are not required to register.

You may think that only minor social work roles are affected by the current registration policy, but that’s not the case. Titles like senior practitioner are not protected, although the duties and responsibilities of a senior practitioner are complex and require many years of social work experience to perform. It isn’t possible to quantify how many social workers inside the system are practicing unregistered, because no one holds that information, and there is no one place offering a full breakdown of the number of social work related titles and roles that are currently unprotected. We would invite the government to do this work, during its consideration of the submissions it received on its recent consultation, which Researching Reform also took part in. We also invited the government to make registration a legal duty for everyone engaging in social work.

At the moment, if a service user wants to make a complaint about a social worker acting under an unprotected title, the only option they have is to make a complaint through the local authority. This process is not impartial and often leads to families’ concerns being brushed under the carpet at best, and at worst suffering a backlash within their case resulting in the family or any children involved being unjustly penalised for raising concerns.

The only other option open to service users applies when a social worker lies about their position or registration status, as outlined in the the Health And Social Work Professions Order 2001, under article 39(1) which reads:

Offences 39.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2), a person commits an offence if with intent to deceive (whether expressly or by implication)— (a) he falsely represents himself to be registered in the register, or a particular part of it or to be the subject of any entry in the register; (b) he uses a title referred to in article 6(2) to which he is not entitled; (c) he falsely represents himself to possess qualifications in a relevant profession.  

Whilst the social care sector may not welcome this petition, it is part of an important drive to rebuild the sector’s image. If everyone engaging in social work is visible and accountable, the sector can start to weed out malpractice and negligence, which are largely responsible for the poor view the public has of social work in England.

If you’d like to sign the petition, you can do so here. 

SW Pet