Gail has been at the GSCC from it’s inception in 2001 and was previously at CCETSW (which transferred into the GSCC) for 12 years, heading-up the registration function since 2003.
Here she shares some thoughts and reflection on the regulation of social work, as we pass the baton to a new regulator, the Health Professions Council (HPC), from 1 August 2012.
What has been the most memorable period for you as Head of Registration at the GSCC?
At the time of opening the register in 2003 no one could tell us how many social workers we had in the country and so we could not accurately forecast how many people would be joining the Social Care Register (SCR), which made planning much more interesting! Therefore the most memorable period for me was in the initial set up phase between April 2005 and April 2008 when social workers first joined the register. In late 2004 thousands of applications were arriving at our office every day so we were surrounded by boxes for months! In particular I recall 1 April 2005 when registration for qualified social workers became mandatory and by which time we had assessed the first 40,000 applications to join the SCR. By April 2008, the same social workers were applying to renew their registration and submit their records of post-registration training and learning (PRTL). This was the first cycle of professional registration for social workers and it was a hectic time for us but we got through it and learnt a lot for the next cycle of mass renewals in 2011.
What has been your biggest challenge in the role?
Coping with incredibly high volumes of applications to join and to stay on the register has been the biggest challenge. In recent times, improved processes, simplified forms and better use of technology, have all helped us to improve how we meet this challenge.
During your time at the GSCC, what achievement are you most proud of?
Having worked with social work professionals for over 20 years, I have been proud to be part of building the first register of professional social workers. Being regulated puts social workers on a par with other professionals they work alongside, such as doctors and lawyers.
How has registration helped to drive up standards and protect the public?
I think the codes of practice have really helped to drive up professional standards and offer public protection. The codes are an agreed set of standards that all social workers sign up to when they register. This has increased accountability so when serious breaches of the code occur, action can be taken against registrants to prevent them from working with service users, some of whom are the most vulnerable people in our society.
Also, having a minimum qualification standard, which is now the social work degree, and the requirement for registrants to provide evidence of ongoing training and learning as part of the registration renewal process, has helped to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date and therefore raise standards in the sector.
Where do you see professional regulation of social workers going under the HPC?
We will be handing over an established register of over 87,000 qualified social workers and 18,000 social work students to the HPC, which is going to be a major addition to their existing suite of registered professionals. However, this is also an exciting time of change, coinciding with the set up of the College of Social Work, meaning the very landscape of social work is changing. Going forward I hope that the status and standing of social work will continue to improve (TV programmes like the Protecting our Children series is a good start) and that social workers start to get the recognition they deserve for the crucial work they do.