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The regulation of social workers and social work education transferred from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) on 1 August 2012.
The HCPC is an independent regulator which regulates 15 other professions besides social work, including a range of health and care professionals such as clinical psychologists, paramedics, chiropodists, occupational therapists etc.
The role of the HCPC is protection of the public. It does this by maintaining a register of all those who hold the protected title of "social worker" and can therefore practice as a social worker. It sets the following standards to ensure that registrants practice safely, legally and effectively.
The "Standards of proficiency for social work" (SOPs) describe what graduates should "know, understand and be able to do when they complete their social work training" so they can register with the HCPC and practice as a social worker. Current social work qualifying courses therefore need to ensure that their curriculum and placements provide opportunities for students to demonstrate that they have met the SOPs in order to graduate and be eligible for HCPC registration.
The HCPC regulates initial social work qualifying education and training by setting Standards of education and training which HEIs have to meet in order to be listed as an "approved course" by the HCPC. This includes standards for ensuring HEIs have processes in place to deal effectively with concerns about the conduct of students.
All courses approved by GSCC will be visited over the next 3 years to ensure they meet HCPC requirements. HCPC maintain a list of courses which were previously recognised by GSCC, (including DipSW, CSS, CSQW etc) which also confer eligibility for registration.
HCPC do not regulate post-qualifying courses, (i.e. courses previously approved as part of the GSCC PQ framework) with the exception of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHP) training.
Registrants also need to demonstrate 'fitness to practice' against the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics to maintain registration.
HCPC operates a 'fitness to practise process' designed to protect the public if a registrant is subsequently deemed as not fit to practise. Where there are concerns about their ability to practise safely and effectively this may mean that they should not practice at all, or that they should be limited in what they are allowed to do.
HCPC requires professionals to apply for re-registration every two years and to demonstrate that they have met HCPC Standards of continuing professional development.