Are there any licensing requirements for individuals wishing to work as social workers in the UK?

Social Workers

The role of a social worker is an extremely valuable tool in the UK to assist individuals who may be experiencing various different problems. For example children you may be suffering abuse at the hands of their parents are often provided with an avenue out of the situation following the help of a social worker.

Recent criticisms of the Social work system

The social work system has come in for some heavy criticisms over the last couple of years most notably in the failure to prevent the killing of a 17-month old baby by the hands of the mother and the mother’s lover and lodger. Following this case not only has the system come into criticism for the failure in this case the reaction following this case for a record number of applications to take children away from their families into care has also been criticised.

A number of judges have echoed the sentiments that the primary purpose and duty of social workers under the Children Act was to keep families together rather than splitting them up and taking them into care.

This seems to verify the position that social workers will come into criticism regardless of the action that they take.

Do social workers currently need a licence to work in the UK?

The current system under the laws of England and Wales is that social workers do not need a licence to work in the country as a social worker. It is simply a job which they can apply to do and will be selected if it is felt they are the best candidate for the job.

Is this system likely to be reformed?

Following the 2008 case mentioned above the government was to set up a body called the social work task force which was to make various recommendations into the use of social workers in the UK.

Why was the social work task force set up?

One of the primary purposes of the social work task force was to improve the low morale and low status of social work in the UK and to try and improve recruitment of potential social workers and also to improve the retention of the existing social workers.

What did the social work task force recommend?

The social work task force recommended that social work should become a degree qualification which must be undertaken by people wishing to work in the field.

The social work task force also made the recommendation that all social workers should be licensed and furthermore social workers must also complete a probationary year before they qualify for that license.

Did the social work task force make any further recommendations?

The social work task force also recommended that employers will be expected to agree standards on case loads as well as improving pay for the most experienced frontline staff so that potential career progression to management posts will not deter them from continuing the career.

The social work task force also recommended the creation of a national college for social work.

Will the UK Government be accepting these proposals?

The UK Government has stated that it will be accepting these recommendations but as yet there is no timeframe on when this will be done.

What are the advantages of this system?

There are many potential advantages to this system, they are as follows:

  • Individuals working as social workers will have a qualification behind them – this will enable them to use the existing personal knowledge and experience that is so integral to their profession alongside knowledge which has been provided to them by individuals who are already experienced in the profession meaning that when they start they will initially be equipped with many of the skills to make the job a success.

  • In undertaking a probationary year it will enable the progress to be monitored to ensure that the proper procedures are being followed and that the individual is fully equipped to do the job

  • If employers agree on a set amount of case loads this will enable many social workers who are overworked to spread caseloads amongst other social workers so more detailed time can be spent on individual cases – this could also have the potential of decreasing the stress levels felt by certain social workers

  • If pay is improved it is more likely to ensure that the best staff stay on and are not tempted away to other jobs

  • If career progression is improved this will also have the potential to ensure that the best staff stay on and are not tempted away by the better career progression offered by other jobs

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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