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Social Work England to consult on fee rise

New regulator will consult on fee increase before September 2020 as it moves towards 'self-financing' model...

Published by Professional Social Work magazine – 22 February 2019

England’s new social work regulator wants to raise fees to help cover costs as it aims to move towards a “self-financing” model.

Social Work England, due to take on regulation of the profession from the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) later this year, will consult on a fee rise before September 2020.

The HCPC currently charges £90 per year for registration. No details of what level of fee rise Social Work England will seek have been released but the plan to propose an increase is included in a set of consultation documents on rules and standards for the profession.

Ministers have pledged up to £16m to cover Social Work England's set up costs but the regulator is being pressed to operate independently of government funding going forward.

It marks a shift from statements on the new regulator announced by ministers in November 2016, when the government said: “we have no plans at this time to require the body to be self-financing”.

BASW chief executive Ruth Allen told PSW: “We expect social workers will be concerned to see that a consultation on fee increases is being trailed and Social Work England is being required to move towards a self-financing basis.

“The burden of moving to a self-financing model should not fall on individual social workers. We will be seeking members views on this, and all aspects of the consultation, and will represent these to Social Work England.”

Colum Conway, Chief Executive of Social Work England, said: “Social Work England will consult on fees early next year as we move towards a self-financing model. We are a new regulator and will deliver streamlined, collaborative, fair and efficient systems and processes.”

The difficulty of operating a self-funding specialist social work regulator without a steep rise in fees was a key argument the government used to justify scrapping the General Social Care Council (GSCC), a single profession regulator that relied on government funding, and moving social work into the remit of the HCPC in 2011.

A government impact assessment published at the time found the "economies of scale" of using the HCPC, which regulated 14 other professions, would allow for registration fees of around £76, whereas a self-financing GSCC would require fees of at least £235.

Social Work England’s model, operating costs and income will be different to GSCC and no impact assessment of the potential impact on its fees compared to HCPC has been published. It said it would be considering "the fees of other regulators as we move towards a self-financing model”.

At present social workers in England pay £90 a year in registration fees, compared to £80 for social workers in Scotland, £65 in Northern Ireland and £50 in Wales (rising to £60 in 2019). None of the other regulators of social work in the UK currently operate on a self-financing model.

No firm date has been set for the transfer of social workers from HCPC to Social Work England. However, a set of papers presented to the most recent HCPC council meeting reveal the HCPC has budgeted for the transfer to take place by December 2019.

A “critical” Transitional Order, which would allow transfer of data between the organisations, is not expected to be laid in parliament until June, the papers said.

The HCPC council recently voted to increase renewal fees from £90 to £106 per registrant. The regulator told PSW the change is unlikely to apply to social workers as the next re-registration window for the profession is in 2020 by which point it is likely to have transferred to Social Work England.

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.