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The Future of: CPD For Social Workers

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

For the current registration year for social workers, which started last week (1st December 2021), social workers are now required to submit 2 pieces of learning (as opposed to the previous requirement of just 1 piece of learning). They must reflect on one of these with a peer. This is part of a new CPD requirement introduced by Social Work England (SWE).

A worker completes CPD at a laptop on a desk

What do social workers and their representative organisations think about this increase to 2 learning pieces? How else is social work CPD evolving? What is CPD for social workers predicted to look like in 2022?

If you provide/organise CPD for social workers, you should be able to answer these questions. So, read below to investigate the future of CPD for social workers.

Two people carry out CPD registration and peer feedback by making notes on documents

CPD Requirements for Social Workers Doubling in 2022

As we stated above, social workers must now submit an extra learning piece for the current CPD registration year. Social Work England have stated that this plan had received “broad support” from 618 respondents after an online survey and several consultation events.

The average approval rating for this scheme was 3.32 out of 5. However, there’s some dissent over whether this rating is high enough, especially seeing as a different plan, to replace the current structured and unstructured forms of recording CPD with a single, simpler version, received a higher rating of 3.51.

UNISON, the trade union representing staff who provide public services in the public and private sectors, supported this latter plan. On the other hand they, and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), disagreed with SWE’s plan to double CPD requirements. They stated that this was due to the fact that, as we’ve just been experiencing a pandemic, it’s not currently an appropriate time to increase requirements.

With CPD now requiring a larger input from social workers, and the reflection with a peer being required, this raises the question of whether CPD for social workers is becoming more inputs-focused. Usually, CPD is outputs-focused, focusing on the quality of work that professionals can complete after CPD and what relevant learning they’ve acquired, but this new approach is focused on the quantity of work that social workers input. Furthermore, increasing requirements may make CPD for social workers more prescriptive, or even too prescriptive.

The new requirements raise some important questions. It’ll be interesting to see if the pattern this form of CPD is going down will continue despite disagreements from organisations such as UNISON and ADCS.

Other Proposed Changes to Social Workers’ CPD

SWE also discussed the possibility of setting a theme for one of the required CPD pieces. However, this drew a mixed response, as some respondents stated that CPD should be specific to the individual, not based upon a one-size-fits-all theme. Other respondents stated that social work itself is too broad for a single theme to apply to all registrants. Confirming our previous point, UNISON warned that the regulator may be too prescriptive in this case.

SWE will therefore not set a theme for the December 2021-November 2022 registration year. However, they’ll investigate the possibility of introducing it in December 2022.

Therefore, such potentially prescriptive approaches are a big possibility for social workers’ CPD.

Industry articles, with a pair of glasses atop them

The Current Approach to CPD

How do these CPD alterations for social workers fit in with how the industry currently handles CPD?

At the moment, SWE’s approach to CPD usually allows for:

• Online recording of CPD on their SWE account

• A focus on personal reflection

• A focus on how CPD have impacted on their practice

• Members to inform SWE about the learning and reflection they’re already completing in post-qualifying activities.

There is a focus on CPD outputs here which shouldn’t be marred by the new system. SWE states that CPD can be any activity that social workers feel would benefit them and their practice. This includes learning from complaints, listening to podcasts, reading articles etc. It’s not just about ensuring that training courses are carried out, although formal CPD is important.

SWE also states that CPD may include an open learning culture, whereby learning’s encouraged and supported. It should also take into account knowledge of policy, guidance and legislation changes, and understanding of ethics and values. The above can all evolve over time.

One aspect of CPD for social workers that CPD Online can help with, is the fact that as social work theory and practice increasingly develop, social workers will constantly need updating on information and knowledge when using their professional judgement and making decisions. As real-time updates can be broadcasted to social workers via livestreamed CPD events, such events don’t need to be delayed to be held on a day when everyone’s available. They can instead be held as quickly as possible, and knowledge transfer can happen a lot more efficiently. Therefore, CPD for social workers is becoming easier to access thanks to digital technology such as training livestreams.

To benefit from the digital age of knowledge transfer and get your CPD events for social workers livestreamed to increase your immediate reach, contact CPD Online using this form to tell us about your next social work CPD event.

SWE also encourages social workers to think creatively about their learning – what other activities do you think could be added in future to count as CPD, which may not already be included?

A group of social workers provide evaluation of their CPD processes


Social Work England maintain that education and training is a key pillar of their corporate strategy. They state that in 2021, they’ve been using feedback from social workers, their own data and research, and their stakeholders’ and colleagues’ views, to see how they can improve CPD registration processes. They’re emphasising the accessibility, effectiveness and intuitiveness of these. They also state that they’ll be working to make such processes simpler and more effective. Furthermore, they’ve been reviewing how registering social workers from outside the UK post-Brexit will work.

Overall, CPD requirements for social workers are involving more and more external factors, and are aiming to remain quite flexible. This is especially due to the fact that this is what social workers themselves say is important.

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