CPD for Social Workers

CPD for Social Workers

04 Mar 2019

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Any activity that contributes to the development of the knowledge, skills and competencies of a social worker can be considered as Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This can be as diverse as completing training courses, reflecting on work practices through supervision, researching new techniques or reading an industry-related article. The learning activity can be regarded as CPD for social workers as long as it enables the social worker to apply this learning in their professional life.

Social workers are particularly well placed to demonstrate engagement in CPD as the nature of their work often means working as part of teams or with colleagues where there are opportunities for learning.

What is CPD in Health and Social Care?

CPD in health and social care typically includes learning activities in relation to working with individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities. These can include attending health and social training courses or social work refresher courses, multidisciplinary meetings, participating in supervisory skills, or even reflecting and improving upon the various challenges faced within the social care industry.

This article provides a simple overview to continuing professional development in social work, the BASW and HCPC CPD requirements that need to be met, as well as highlighting what else can be included as social work professional development.

Am I required to undertake training courses for Social Workers?

All professional social workers should be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Those who wish to remain on the SW register must demonstrate their Continuing Professional Development every 2 years by providing evidence that they have maintained a continuous, up-to-date record of their CPD training courses and any other learning activities relevant to current or future practice.

For HCPC CPD a Social Worker must:

  1. Maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD training courses and activities

  2. Demonstrate that their CPD activities are a mixture of relevant learning

  3. Seek to ensure that their CPD has contributed to the quality of their practice and service delivery

  4. Seek to ensure that their CPD benefits the service user

  5. Upon request, present a written profile (which must be their own work and supported by evidence) explaining how they have met the standards for CPD

A professional social worker must update their HCPC registration every two years as well as sign a declaration to confirm that they have met the CPD requirements. HCPC will select a random sample of 2.5% of social workers to undertake an audit. If selected, the social worker is requested to provide evidence that they have met the HCPC CPD requirements. HCPC would not select social workers within their first two years of practice or a social worker who had recently returned to practice after a break in their registration.

HCPC CPD – What if you are selected?

If you are selected by HCPC you will be asked to fill in a profile and send this back to them before the deadline of your registration renewal date. HCPC will provide you with three months to complete your profile. There is an option for you to request an extension if you are going to struggle to complete this in the requested time.
Once your profile has been sent there will be CPD assessors who look over this and will determine whether or not they feel you have met the HCPC CPD requirements. If a decision is made that your profile only meets some of the standards set they may provide you with some additional time to undertake further social work assessment training.

If you are selected to participate in the CPD audit, there is a range of guidance and information available on the HCPC website, including sample profiles, activity types and video guides. It also provides information about the audit and assessment process.

What is considered as good CPD social work?

The Health and Social Care Council define CPD as ‘the means by which health and social care professionals maintain and improve their knowledge, skills and competence, and develop professional qualities required throughout their professional life’.

CPD is a cyclical process through which you:

  • Review your professional development needs
  • Plan how to meet these needs
  • Implement a plan and take action to meet these needs
  • Reflect on this learning and demonstrate how these new skills/learning has affected your work practice

Continuing professional development in social work can encompass all types of learning including workplace supervision, peer group learning, social work refresher courses, placements, training programmes and also higher level qualifications. The different types of learning that count for CPD social work:

  • Work-based learning e.g. in-service training, audit of patients
  • Professional activity e.g. mentoring, professional body membership
  • Formal/educational e.g. attendance at conferences, courses, refresher courses, assessment training
  • Self-directed learning e.g. reading journals, internet research
  • Other e.g. voluntary work, public service

CPD social work can also be both unplanned or ‘on the job’ learning and can be considered another part of a social worker’s Continuing Professional Development plan. It is suggested that you keep on record all of your training courses materials, reflection work, research and information from any books you have read. Aim to keep note of the training courses dates or any conferences you have attended so that if you are selected for the process you will have all the information already collated.

What are the CPD requirements for social work practice?

The Health and Care Professions Council standards for Continuing Professional Development are very different from the General Social Care Council’s (GSCC) system of post-registration training and learning (PRTL). The HCPC CPD approach is designed to focus on the benefits of learning rather than just the time spent. The HCPC do not set a minimum number of hours or days for the undertaking of cpd in social work practice, but rather focus on the outcome of learning activities and the impact on social work practice and service users.

Every professional social worker registered with the HCPC is required to maintain a record (portfolio) of their learning. This can be either online or paper-based. It should also be evidenced. It is this portfolio which drawn upon if someone is selected for audit. This is not a professional’s entire portfolio of evidence, it is more a snapshot of their learning and changes in their practice over the previous two years. If selected, the HCPC will send a form to be completed which tells them about your learning and development over the past two years.

The Care Council Requirements

As part of CPD in social work, the Care Council recognises that there are many ways to continue to learn and develop as a social worker, thus have acted to avoid being too specific about the type of activities that will meet requirements. However, they have stated that the training courses and learning that registrants choose should:

  • Benefit their personal development needs
  • Benefit their current employment
  • Benefit their career progression
  • Reflect their preferred learning style
  • Make the most of the learning opportunities available to form part of their wider professional development; and improve their ability to provide high-quality services to service users and carers

CPD for British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is the independent professional membership organisation for social workers. It is part of BASW’s aim to be a one stop online information portal for UK social work training courses and development. The provision of regular planned CPD is central to the development and maintenance of high-quality social work and to developing professional identity and confidence. Social workers undertaking CPD should be able to work in an environment which values and gives a high priority to continuing learning and development. The BASW feel that social workers should have:

  • Regular appraisal and updated personal development plans that identify learning based on an analysis of each social worker’s individual needs and personal learning style
  • Space for critical reflection and learning from others through professional supervision, peer learning, professional networks and involving people who use services
  • Access to on-going planned learning opportunities to maintain and develop knowledge and skills for current roles, progress career development and enable re-registration.
  • Access to CPD systems and processes which support learning and career development and focus on improved outcomes for children, adults, families and communities.
  • Opportunities at all levels to contribute to the continuous improvement of practice, engage in research and evidence-informed practice.
  • Should be able to access information and support for CPD through BASW as a professional body.
  • With the support of the professional body should expect to work with employers, regulators and training providers to develop an approach to CPD which improves the effectiveness, quality and relevance of learning and practice

Employers in the social care industry should regard CPD as an entitlement, a responsibility and a necessity, in order to maintain and improve the industry now and in the future, and also support the next generation of social workers. Employers should have a strategy for learning and development based on the learning needs of social workers, workforce planning needs of the organisation and local and national priorities.

PCF Social Work

Launched in 2012, The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) is an overarching professional standards framework, developed by the Social Work Reform Board. Whether you are a qualified social worker, a student, academic or employer, you need to know about the PCF for social work. The BASW state:

"Together, the PCF and KSS provide the foundation for social work education and practice in England at qualifying and post-qualifying levels and are used to inform recruitment, workforce development, performance appraisal and career progression. The KSS set out what a social worker should know, and be able to do, in specific practice settings, in specific roles and at different levels of seniority. The KSS maps on to the practice domains of the PCF (knowledge, critical reflection and analysis, interventions and skills) and should help guide everyday practice."


As part of the refresh, BASW has introduced new definitions and descriptions of the PCF in a bid to add clarity to what it means for practice. It said the PCF is the underpinning framework for social work practice, which sets out common capabilities for what social workers should expect of themselves and what others should expect of them. The PCF does not define specialist knowledge and skills or layout learning content that may be needed in particular work contexts. It describes the capabilities that all social workers should aspire to develop throughout their career. The new principles are:

Purpose: why we do what we do as social workers, our values and ethics, and how we approach our work

Practice: what we do – the specific skills, knowledge, interventions and critical analytic abilities we develop to act and do social work

Impact: How we make a difference – our ability to bring about change through our practice, through our leadership, through understanding our context and through our overall professionalism

What should a CPD record include?

Reflection is a central aspect of on-going learning and development. Social workers should work critically, effectively and reflectively. Reflection can be described as the learning to be gained by engaging in deliberate practice, built on reviewing prior experience to derive new insights and lessons, and on feedback that is accurate, diagnostic and timely. Social work professional development is more effective if undertaken within a learning culture and evaluated in terms of outcomes.

A CPD profile has four components:

  • List of CPD activities (for the last two years)
  • Summary of recent work (for the last two years) – 500 words maximum
  • Statement of how standards have been met – 1,500 words maximum
  • Supporting evidence

The list of activities shows that you have met the required standards, whilst the summary gives you an opportunity to highlight your recent scope of practice. The statement is the largest part of the profile. It is where you can highlight in detail a number of activities that you feel have benefited your practice and service users. Finally, a small selection of evidence, which supports what you have said in the CPD profile.

Here are some helpful suggestions from our CPD assessors on examples of good practice as well as questionable practice.


  • Keep it simple. Use simple language to describe the CPD you have done, what you have learnt from it, and how it has benefited you and other people. Choose three to five CPD activities over the last two years. Tell us what you did, what you learnt, and the benefits to you and other people
  • Remember to include a dated list of all the CPD training courses you have completed in the last two years to demonstrate that you have met CPD requirements. If you have any gaps of three months or more, they will need to be explained
  • Provide good evidence for each of the activities. Reflective logs, case studies, presentations, certificates and feedback from your service users would all be relevant
  • Ensure confidentiality when including your evidence – make sure that none of your evidence or your statement includes references to named individuals
  • Make sure that the evidence you send will back up the statements made in your profile. It should show that you have undertaken the activities you have referred to, and should also show how they have improved the quality of your work and benefited service users
  • Keep a personal log of your social work practice for professional development purposes, so that if you move jobs or your circumstances change you will still have access to it
  • The council’s approach to assessing professional development focuses on the outcome of your activities – how they have benefited you and your service users, not how many hours or points you have. It’s up to you to think about what you need to do to keep up to date in your area of practice


  • Do not try to describe in detail every activity you have undertaken over the last two years. Instead, select a small number of different activities that you feel benefited you the most and write about each one
  • Do not send us evidence of all your CPD activities – we only need evidence to support the activities you have written about that have taken place
  • Do not include evidence which is confidential or includes confidential information – e.g. names of patients or clients. Please make sure that any confidential information is anonymised before you send it to us

This article was written to help provide a simple outline to CPD for social workers, BASW and HCPC CPD requirements for social workers from across the industry. We have also tried to provide some additional information which can help contribute to social workers professional development. If you are a social worker with Continuing Professional Development training requirements, please see the latest CPD training courses and events at the Social Care CPD Hub.

CPD News Team

CPD News Team

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