Social workers must be registered with one of four UK councils. The four councils are: the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in England, Social Care Wales (SCW), Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). These councils protect the public by ensuring practicing social workers are fully qualified. Social workers have to re-register every two years, completing post-registration training and learning to qualify.
To register, you need a social work degree (an undergraduate degree in social work, or masters in social work). As well as registering with a regulator, social work is protected by a strict professional code of practice. Read more about becoming a social worker for more information about the different routes into social work as a profession.
In Northern Ireland, all probation officers must have a social work qualification and be registered with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC).
Social workers need to re-register every two to three years to maintain high standards in their work. Re-registration requires the completion of ongoing training and learning. BASW supports you through our Professional Development and Education (ProfDE) service and hub of searchable resources, which you can log for your Continuous Professional (CPD) or Post-Registration Training and Learning (PRTL).
The four UK Care Councils have different requirements and criteria across the different countries.
The HCPC carries out random audits to check social workers registered with the council are carrying out ongoing professional development. The HCPC requires social workers in England to maintain a record of any CPD activities. These activities must be relevant to current and future practice, and be proven to have contributed to quality of your work and benefits the service user. HCPC may also request a written profile of how you’ve met the CPD standards. Visit the HCPC website for details about how to complete and record CPD activities.
The SSSC has different post-registration training and learning (PRTL) requirements for social workers and social services workers. Visit the SSSC website for details about how to re-register and what you need to do.
The SCW requires all those registered as social workers to complete 15 days of PRTL within the three-year period of registration. Visit the SCW website for more details about how to log PRTL and re-register.
The NISCC requires social workers to complete 90 hours of training and learning over a three-year period. Find out more on the NISCC website.
If you’ve been out of practice for over two years, you’ll need to prove you’ve updated your skills and knowledge through supervised practice, formal study and private study known as your ‘updating period’. The number of hours and days required depends on how long you’ve been out of social work, and ranges from 30 to 60 days.
Formal study can include distance learning (for example, an Open University module), e-learning, CPD courses (check BASW Events) and programmes by professional bodies. Local authorities and universities often run ‘return to social work’ courses, which can contribute to the days of practice required. The Local Government Association runs ‘Return to Social Work’ courses. See the HCPC’s guide to returning to practice.
Top tips for re-gaining experience to apply for social work roles:
Consider taking on similar roles outside social work to provide relevant experience
Shadow a registered social worker
Approach agencies who may be able to find you a temporary job requiring less experience
For supervised practice, contact previous employers, charities, voluntary organisations where there is a social worker in place who could supervise you, or try contacting an independent social worker through our Independents Directory
Contact your BASW country office, or country care council, for further advice
The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each of the four countries has its own social work regulator. To work as a social worker you must be registered with the regulator in the country in which you wish to work.
First, check if your social work qualification meets the standards for registration with one of the four UK regulators. If you wish register, you’ll need to complete application forms and pay an application fee, which is different for each country. The process of registration may time some time.
If you do not already have a job with a sponsoring employer, there are various ways you can find social work jobs. Employers often advertise through social work publications, for example, Professional Social Work magazine, through the BASW website or through local authority websites. You may decide to use the assistance of a social work employment agency. These companies discuss your work experience and may be able to assist in securing either permanent or locum/temporary work in the UK. Most of these companies are ‘for profit’ and charge for this service.
Home Office UK Border Agency is responsible for securing the UK border and controlling migration. It holds information on sponsoring migrants under the points-based system. If you are not a British Citizen or from the EU or EEA, you’ll most likely need to obtain a visa through sponsorship via an employer who is registered as sponsor.
(Information updated May 2018 and may be subject to change.)