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Home > About Registration > Other regulators > UK social work regulation

UK social work regulation

Social work regulation is a devolved matter in the UK, which means that there are three other social work regulators located in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A memorandum of understanding has been agreed between HCPC, the Care Council for Wales, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council and the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) (collectively 'the Four Councils') and this sets out a framework for the working relationship between the Four Councils in relation to the regulation of social workers and the approval of social work education across the UK.

The following FAQs should help to answer general queries for social workers wishing to work across the four home countries in the UK.


1. If I am registered with one of the other UK social care regulators* can I also apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)?

Yes, if you are registered with one of the other UK social care regulators, you are eligible to apply for registration with HCPC. You should complete the application form for “UK approved course” applicants and you will be asked as part of the form whether you are currently registered with any of the other Care Councils. A link to the application form can be found here:


2. If I am registered with one of the other UK social care regulators* but occasionally work in England, do I have to register with the HCPC?

Article 13B of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 says that a person may not practise as a social worker in England unless they are registered with the HCPC.

The only exception is where a social worker who is registered in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland works in England as a social worker on a “temporary” basis.

What constitutes temporary practice is a question of fact, which will vary from case to case. For this purpose, temporary needs to be given its ordinary meaning of “only lasting for a limited time” or “not permanent”.

Importantly, the HCPC does not regard “temporary” as including infrequent but nonetheless regular patterns of work, such as a person who works in England for a part of each month on an open-ended or long term basis. The permanent nature of that kind of arrangement means that the social worker should be registered with the HCPC.

The fact that an arrangement is described as temporary is also not conclusive. For example, we would expect a social worker who has a ‘temporary’ contract in England for a year or more to be registered with us.

The following examples, although they are not and cannot be definitive, should help you to decide whether you need to be registered with the HCPC:

  • a social worker who is registered in Wales and is given a six week contract in England but who intends to return to practise in Wales at the end of the contract would not need to be registered with the HCPC.

  • a social worker who is registered in Scotland and works there four days per week but also works one day per week in England would need to be registered with the HCPC.

  • a social worker who works for an agency in Scotland and is registered there but is sometimes given assignments in England would not need to be registered with the HCPC unless assignments in England became a regular or dominant feature of their work.

  • a social worker who is registered in Northern Ireland but works in England one week per month would need to be registered with the HCPC.

  • a social worker who works for an organisation in Wales and is registered there but from time to time works for short periods at the organisation’s homes in England would not need to be registered with the HCPC unless the work in England was a regular part of their employment.

  • a social worker who is registered in Northern Ireland and works there for a UK-wide charity but provides cover for sickness or other unplanned absences by colleagues in England would not need to be registered with the HCPC.

Even if you conclude that your work in England is temporary in nature and that you do not need to be registered with us, you need to keep the situation under review. A contract or other arrangement may be varied, extended or renewed and you must make a good faith assessment of whether any change in your circumstances has changed the temporary nature of your work in England.


3. If I completed an approved programme in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, but have not yet registered with the Care Council in the country in which I qualified, can I apply directly to HCPC for registration?

The HCPC will recognise programmes approved by the other Care Councils so any application for registration can be made directly to HCPC. You should complete the application form for “UK approved course” applicants.


4. I gained registration with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council through the international application route. What is the application process to register with the HCPC?

As part of the agreement in place with the other Care Councils, the HCPC recognise registration with another Care Council as conferring eligibility to register with the HCPC. Therefore, you should complete the application form for “UK approved course” applicants.


5. I have recently renewed my registration with the Scottish Social Services Council but am now relocating to work as a social worker in London. Can I transfer my registration to the HCPC?

Prior to December 2011, it was possible to transfer registration from one Care Council to another or, alternatively, apply for additional country registration, whereby individuals were registered with more than one Care Council although only paid a registration fee to the “lead” Council. The decision was taken to bring this registration route to a close.

Under the new system, you would be required to apply for registration with the HCPC and pay registration fees to the HCPC in order to practise as a social worker in England.

Should you wish to continue to practise in Scotland, even on an occasional basis, you would need to retain your registration with the Scottish Social Services Council. This would mean that you would be dual registered and would need to renew your registration, and pay fees, to both Councils.

*Care Council Wales, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council or the Scottish Social Services Council



Related Documents
Social work - Memorandum of Understanding 2013Adobe PDF Document344kb

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