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Social Work England can impose ‘conditional registration’

The new social work regulator will be allowed to prevent social workers from carrying out certain tasks as part of conditions placed on their registration, it has emerged.

A government consultation about Social Work England outlines that conditional registration will allow an individual to be registered and practise subject to conditions, such as restrictions on the type of work they can undertake or requirements related to health conditions, such as undertaking medical treatment or assessments.

“This would give Social Work England greater flexibility to grant registration applications for individuals where it considers it proportionate and in line with public protection, allowing the individual an opportunity to meet standards rather than refusing registration,” says the document.

“We propose that conditional registration entries would be annotated on the register to provide transparency. Where a registrant does not comply with the conditions attached to their registration, the regulator will have the power to remove them from the register,” it adds.

Registrants will also have to have a ‘proficiency’ of the English language to ensure they can communicate effectively with children, families and vulnerable adults. These provisions will make having the necessary knowledge of English a condition of registration for applicants with EEA qualifications, as well as those with UK and international qualifications. A failure to meet standards will result in a fitness to practise inquiry.

Continuing Professional Development will be more broadly seen as ‘continuing fitness to practise’ and Social Work England will set Professional Standards which will include standards for continuous professional development.

The Professional Standards Authority has argued that existing fitness to practise systems are expensive and overly adversarial. The consultation proposes a system of ‘accepted disposal’ should be incorporated into Social Work England’s fitness to practise framework. Under accepted disposal, a registrant would effectively waive their right to an adjudication hearing. It would allow case examiners to put final sanctions in place more quickly where a registrant accepts findings of fact and the sanction proposed by the regulator. The registrant would have the right to take their case to a hearing if they disagree with the findings of fact or sanction proposed.

The consultation also proposes to integrate a system of automatic removal into Social Work England’s fitness to practise regime to allow the regulator to take action to remove social workers convicted of certain very serious criminal offences from the register without having to go through fitness to practise processes.

The consultation also proposes to include a more streamlined fitness to practise process for social workers convicted of criminal offences which have resulted in a custodial sentence. This would eliminate the need for the investigatory part of the fitness to practise process, as guilt had already been determined by a criminal court. Instead, such cases could proceed to a hearing.

The deadline for commenting on the consultation is 21 March.

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