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The standards of proficiency for social workers in England and the professional capabilities framework

Date of publication: 16/08/2011
Category: Position statement
Audience: Journalists and media
This a joint statement issued by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Social Work Reform Board.

In July 2010 the government announced that the regulation of social workers in England will transfer from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This is expected to take place in July 2012, subject to legislation. The HCPC recognise that whilst it is preparing for this transfer, the Social Work Reform Board (SWRB) is taking forward its plans to reform social work in England. The HCPC is a member of the SWRB and is supportive of its vision to create a safe confident future for social work.

As part of its provisions for the transfer, the HCPC is required by its legislation to develop standards of proficiency for social workers in England. Part of the SWRB’s work includes developing a Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) which supports social workers throughout their career. As both pieces of work are being developed at the same time, the HCPC and SWRB are keen to set out how the standards of proficiency and the PCF work in conjunction:

• The HCPC’s standards of proficiency are the threshold standards necessary for safe and effective practice within a profession. They set out what a social worker in England must know, understand and be able to do following the completion of their social work degree.
• Alongside the standards of proficiency, the HCPC also sets separate standards for conduct, performance and ethics and continuing professional development.
• All of the HCPC’s standards must be adhered to in order to remain on the Register. These standards are how a registrants' (individual on the HCPC Register) ‘fitness to practise’ is determined.
• By contrast, the PCF is designed to support social workers throughout each stage of their career, beyond the threshold standards set by the HCPC.
• The PCF acts as an overarching framework by setting out key capabilities expected of a social worker as they develop in their career. These include professionalism, values and ethics, knowledge, intervention and skills and professional leadership.

The HCPC will continue to work with the SWRB to ensure consistency and understanding about the standards of proficiency and the PCF wherever possible and to support developments in social work practice.


Notes to editors:

1 All media enquiries to Ebony Gayle, Media & PR Manager on 020 7840 9784 or email

2 For further information about the HCPC standards, please contact Charlotte Urwin, Policy Manager on or email

3 The Health and Care Professions Council is an independent, UK-wide health and care regulator set up by the Health and Social Work Professions Order (2001). The HCPC keeps a register for 16 different health professions and only registers people who meet the standards it sets for their training, professional skills, behaviour and health. The HCPC will take action against people who do not meet these standards or who use a protected title illegally.

4 The Social Work Reform Board brings together key organisations involved in the education and training of social workers, their employers and managers and service users to support the sector to achieve sustainable long term reform. The objective is to develop a system in which there are sufficient high quality social workers to help children, young people and adults, in which social workers are well supported and in which the public feels confident.

5 HCPC currently regulates the following 16 professions. Each of these professions has one or more ‘protected titles’. Anyone who uses one of these titles must register with the HCPC. To see the full list of protected titles please see:

• Arts therapists
• Biomedical scientists
• Chiropodists and podiatrists
• Clinical scientists
• Dietitians
• Hearing aid dispensers
• Occupational therapists
• Operating department practitioners
• Orthoptists
• Paramedics
• Physiotherapists
• Practitioner psychologists
• Prosthetists and orthotists
• Radiographers
• Social workers in England
• Speech and language therapists
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