Health and Social Care Professionals Council

To ask the Minister for Health the professions which have completed registration to the Health and Social Care Professionals Council and qualify to use the title of a designated health and social care profession and where the determination of complaints relating to their fitness to practice has been completed under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005. – Dan Neville T.D.

REPLY.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council (HSCPC) was established in March 2007, under the provisions of the Health and Social Care Professional Act 2005. The Act provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for twelve health and social care professionals as follows; clinical biochemists, dietitians, medical scientists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, radiographers, social care workers, social workers and speech and language therapists. Registration will apply to the twelve professions regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector or are self-employed and is the first time that fitness to practice procedures will be put in place for these professionals on a statutory basis.

The main focus of the Council to-date has been the setting up of organisational structures, the progression of corporate and general processes and the identification of robust financial/HR and governance systems. The Council has undertaken considerable preparatory work to provide for the establishment of the registration boards and is developing governance arrangements, financial management systems, fitness to practice procedures and ICT systems. A Code of Corporate Governance, a Strategic Statement/Business Plan 2010-2012 and a Communication Strategy 2010-2013 have also been drawn up. In addition, the National Social Work Qualifications Board (NSWQB) was dissolved and its staff, property and liabilities transferred to the HSCPC on the 31st March 2011.

The first registration board to be established under the Council, the Social Workers Registration Board, was established in August 2010, and the associated Social Workers Register opened for receipt/processing of registrants on Tuesday 31st May, 2011. With the opening of this register, this is the first step in the regulation of social workers as a profession and the Social Workers Registration Board will be considering applications for registration from an estimated 2,500 registrants of the profession. As part of this process, a new statutory Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Social Workers has been adopted to underpin the regulation of the profession. The Code specifies the standards of ethics, performance and conduct required of registered social workers in a clear and accessible manner. The new system of regulation will give the public confidence that they are dealing with a fully qualified and regulated professional whenever they encounter a social worker.

Under the provisions of the 2005 Act, there is a two-year transitional period from the date on which the register of the members of that profession is established, during which social workers currently employed may apply for registration. From May 2013, every social worker wishing to use the title will be required to be registered. The name of every registered social worker will be published in the register, which will be accessible online. Only social workers who have satisfied the board that they hold an approved qualification and are “fit and proper” to engage in the practise of the profession will be entered on the register.

Part 6 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 refers to issues concerning complaints and disciplinary sanctions in relation to registrants. The related fitness to practice regime, to be introduced within the next two years, will allow concerned members of the public to make a complaint about a registered social worker. If upheld, disciplinary sanctions can be imposed, including preventing that person from practising as a social worker. The implementation and operation of a robust Fitness to Practice process will underpin and ensure adequate patient safety provisions.

The considerable preparatory work undertaken by the HSCPC to-date, and the structures implemented to facilitate the opening of the first registration board and register, will greatly assist the HSCPC in making further progress. It is envisaged that at least five additional registration boards will be established before end-2012, with subsequent registration boards to be established as soon as possible after that.