CPD and SWE Blog

Understanding CPD recording and regulation for social work and occupational therapy

Published: 03/09/2020

Author: Hannah Scott and Alison Thorne

Social work has been a regulated profession since 2001, first by the General Social Care Council up to 2012 then the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Occupational therapy has been regulated since 1960 with the establishment of the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine.   

However, in December 2019 the HCPC ceased to be the regulating body for social workers with the formation of Social Work England. The move for social workers also introduced a change in how they can think about continuing professional development (CPD) - the reflection and learning activity that practitioners undertake throughout their career to maintain and improve their practice. Occupational therapists (OTs) remain under the HCPC, however the new regulations for social workers might also provide an opportunity for OTs to pause and think about how and when they record their CPD.

Under the HCPC, 2.5% of registered professionals are picked to submit a portfolio demonstrating their CPD activities from the previous two years of practice. Whilst HCPC workers are encouraged to prepare this and keep a formal record of their CPD, unless they are chosen, it isn’t essential to maintain their registration.

When previously working as a social worker myself under HCPC, my own style was to keep notes in the back of my diary or notebook when I attended training or did some research and reflection that had an impact on my learning and practice. Had I then been picked, I would have used this to complete the portfolio. My other colleagues often took the approach of just hoping they wouldn’t get picked and using their diaries to see what they had done in the last few months as a reminder. I am sure there are at least a few individuals who prepared the full portfolio in anticipation, however I confess I never knowingly met this unique worker!

Under Social Work England, every social worker is now required to complete a record of their CPD on their website. They encourage social workers to regularly record CPD activity throughout the year to keep it up to date, stating that recording CPD at least once a quarter would be good practice. Although not part of regulation for OTs this shift in thinking would also be good practice for recording their own CPD.

The registration renewal cycle is annual (in September-November), so they must record at least one piece of CPD demonstrating that you have met all of the CPD standard 4. From 1 September until 30 November 2020, social workers who wish to continue to practice must renew their registration.

User details have been brought over from the HCPC site and workers just need to activate this by logging onto Social Work England. For workers to be able to renew their social work registration, they must have uploaded at least one CPD record. This may increase in the future, however at the moment Social Work England understand that this is a shift in learning and process.

If any worker has not submitted any CPD by the deadline on 30 November 2020 they will be contacted by Social Work England and if they fail to produce this in a further 21 days, they risk being removed from the register and would need to apply and pay to restore their registration. A selection of 2.5% of workers will have their CPD reviewed with the outcomes either being ‘accepted’ or ‘further assessment.’ If further assessment is required, Social Work England will contact you to let you know why and what you need to do.

Why is CPD important?

Whilst the recent months have been a busy time in an ever pressured role, it is important that both social workers and occupational therapists demonstrate how they are continuing to develop in their practice when working with vulnerable people. This is a very privileged role, and whilst recording CPD can feel like an additional task and piece of paperwork, I have to reflect at times of feeling overwhelmed with this in my social work career that it is only right that we both keep our practice relevant and safe, and have to demonstrate this. We wouldn’t feel comfortable having a medical procedure completed by someone who does not have up to date knowledge, experience and support in this, and we would be doing our professions a disservice if we did not give ourselves the same standard.

Under the Social Work England standards for practice, standard 4 details the need to demonstrate CPD. Part of this standard includes recording your CPD (4.6 and 4.7 will therefore automatically be selected), so by recording your CPD you are automatically meeting part of the standards. The eight areas in which you can use to demonstrate CPD, include using feedback from people with lived experience of your practice, using supervision to reflect, accessing research, using learning from legal literacy and case law, and contributing to learning of peers.

The RCOT Code of Ethics and Professional Standards has profession specific guidance detailed in section 5.3 and Appendix 2, which was developed to complement the HCPC requirements to demonstrate a continuous, up to date and accurate representation of your CPD activities to ensure practice is safe, legal and effective. However this guidance is due to be updated, and RCOT has advised that it is currently superseded by the document ‘Principles for Continuing professional development and lifelong learning in health and social care’ issued by the the Interprofessional CPD and Lifelong Learning UK Working Group. If you are selected to provide your portfolio for audit, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists can provide advice and support. There is also guidance and profession specific examples on the HCPC website.

What counts as CPD?

Social Work England state:

‘Although formal training can be an important part of learning, CPD can be any activity you feel would benefit you and your practice. This can include anything from learning from complaints and understanding where things went wrong, to podcasts, articles and book clubs. It can also be the work you have done through programmes such as assessed supported year in employment.’

HCPC advises what constitutes CPD by giving a list of examples including work shadowing, supervising students and junior colleagues, being a member of a work related committee, and peer review.

With an increased emphasis on joint working, it is helpful to have a clear understanding of the impact of social and medical perspectives on those with lived experience. Workers from different professional backgrounds may share some views, and some may be from quite a different perspective. These perspectives are sometimes referred to as the social discourse and the medical discourse or more commonly, as the social model and medical model. The personal – cultural – structural (PCF) model of anti-oppressive practice (Thompson, 2005) offers a method to analyse the way that oppression operates and how it impacts on those who use services.

There can be a common misconception that CPD is just about attending training, however CPD can range from attending a course to having a reflective discussion with a colleague to reading a piece of research, practice tool or case law – anything that has had a positive impact upon your practice and development. COVID-19 and lockdown has brought many challenges to the roles, however each worker has developed to virtual working, remote peer support, and in high risk cases, managing face to face visits with the addition of PPE and social distancing. This may not be something people automatically consider as CPD, however if you have read a blog, guidance or reflected upon your practice, this can be included so long as you can demonstrate the impact it has had.

How to record CPD on the Research in Practice website 

Anyone with a Research in Practice account can easily keep an ongoing record of their CPD. When you use any of our resources, you can click the ‘CPD’ button which will bring up a box saying ‘My CPD’, in which you can add your reflections on the content and how this has impacted upon your practice. You can access this by logging in and navigating to My Rip > My CPD. Currently the website maps all resources to the PCF, CQC, RCOT and KSS standards, however when uploading your CPD record onto Social Work England, you will also be able to select which Social Work England standards you have met through your CPD.

Exporting CPD to Social Work England

You can export your CPD record and upload this onto the Social Work England website. This video shows how to do this. There are two forms you can use - structured or unstructured. There is no expectation as to which you must use as this will be a personal preference, with the structured giving a more prescriptive format and the unstructured with fewer prompts, however when linking to a Research in Practice CPD record, the unstructured form often suits best as this allows for you to use the free text box to discuss the impact the CPD had on your practice and how this relates to meeting the standards. Your CPD record must include –

  • Date of CPD – the reflection or CPD must have been completed within the registration year (2 December 2019 to 30 November 2020)
  • What was your role in this example?
  • What did you do? More information to explain what you did/what happened
  • Thinking about this example, how did it impact on the quality of your practice? This is key to recording CPD with Social Work England and social workers should draw out the key points from their uploaded CPD.

Helpful links

Guidance to setting up your Social Work England account.

Social Work England's guide to CPD.

A Social Work England blog on CPD.

Top tips on recording your CPD by Social Work England.

HCPC guidelines on CPD for Occupational Therapists and from the RCOT.

Supporting CPD 7 (1)

Supporting CPD recording and practice

It’s important to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to enhance your professional attributes, knowledge, understanding and skills. To support you to do this, we will be releasing new resources and guidance over the next few months.
View the resources

Hannah Scott and Alison Thorne

Hannah is a Research and Development officer for children and families services. Hannah has worked in child protection roles as a registered social worker and is also a systemic practitioner. Alison is also a Research and Development officer and is a registered occupational therapist.


Thompson, N. (2005) Anti-Discriminatory Practice (3rd Edition) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.