Prioritising your social work CPD
By Luke Aldred
We know that your Continuing Professional Development is important to you. Not just because it’s a key factor in retaining your professional registration, but because you care about continually improving your social work skills and supporting those in need.
If you’re working as a social worker in England, then you may know that following the switch of the professional regulator to Social Work England, you’ll now be expected to renew your registration (and demonstrate evidence of your CPD) annually.
There is an online portal on the Social Work England website which will allow you to upload your records digitally and it’s important that your activities adhere to the new regulator’s required standards which are detailed below.
Incorporate feedback from a range of sources, including from people with lived experience of my social work practice.
Use supervision and feedback to critically reflect on, and identify my learning needs, including how I use research and evidence to inform my practice.
Keep my practice up to date and record how I use research, theories and frameworks to inform my practice and my professional judgement.
Demonstrate good subject knowledge on key aspects of social work practice and develop knowledge of current issues in society and social policies impacting on social work
Contribute to an open and creative learning culture in the workplace to discuss, reflect on and share best practice.
Reflect on my learning activities and evidence what impact continuing professional development has on the quality of my practice.
Record my learning and reflection on a regular basis and in accordance with Social Work England’s guidance on continuing professional development.
Reflect on my own values and challenge the impact they have on my practice
Source: Social Work England
At Sanctuary, we’re here to help our social work community work effectively. Therefore, we’ve listed a few tips below which may help you to make your CPD a priority in 2020.
Break your CPD down into different areas
A great way to ensure that you’re benefiting from well-rounded professional development is to break your CPD down into different areas. You could choose between work-based learning, educational activities, professional activity, self-directed learning or other voluntary work to showcase to your regulator that you’re doing what you can to improve your knowledge and practice across every facet of your work.
How are you using reflective supervision and clinical audits to improve your practice and learning? Are you working and collaborating with peers in other teams to help provide positive outcomes? Are you part of your local safeguarding board or any other committees? Perhaps you’re providing support and supervision to NQSWs and other junior members of the team.
Have you participated in any training courses over the past year? Whether it’s face to face or online, there are plenty of ways for you to improve your knowledge. Events such as Community Care Live can be a great way for you to attend seminars and workshops based on areas of professional interest.
You may be involved in regional committee groups (perhaps with organisations such as BASW) or maybe you’ve presented lectures or workshops in front of your peers. If you’re sharing your knowledge, then you are clearly contributing to an ‘open learning culture’.
Are you taking time for yourself to read the latest news and information? We’re not just talking about reading lengthy textbooks – but making use of blogs, podcasts and joining in with social media conversations can help you to develop new viewpoints and learn from others’ perspectives.
If you’re working with Sanctuary, then you’ll know that we provide free access to Social Work News magazine. This is another resource that you should make use of; each issue features interviews and details of social work projects from across the UK. Use it to inspire you and see if it teaches you anything new.
Are you involved in any other activities which could be classed as a way of improving your professionalism? Perhaps you are a volunteer for a charity/community organisation, or you’re involved in public service activities. If so, make sure you log it within your portfolio – you may be surprised by how much CPD you do without realising.
Little and often is always preferable
When it comes to CPD, it’s always important to take a regular approach to your learning. You may wish to set a New Year’s resolution that you’ll allocate a few hours each month to your professional development. We understand how busy you are, and that caseloads will always take precedence but if you focus on taking a regular approach to your CPD, you’ll find it much easier to maintain your portfolio and improve your practice.
It’s also important to use your allocated time to update your portfolio. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of the year and panicking that you’re not sure what to include. Allocating a short amount of time each week or each month will allow you to track it as you go – providing a greater frame of reference for your registration renewal.
Be open to feedback from users with lived experience of social work practice
Guidance from Social Work England suggests that feedback should be a core part of your CPD log – after all, it’s only by knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are that you can improve your skills.
“Feedback is crucial to social work practice. It’s important to build self-awareness and be open to receiving feedback, whether positive or critical. This will help you to grow and improve in a way that informs your practice and helps you identify areas for future learning”
Social Work England, November 2019
The new regulator suggests that all social work practitioners should regularly ask users with lived experience of social work for feedback. It suggests that you should ask a variety of people for feedback on different areas of your practice. It could be through formal or informal discussions, through letters of recommendation, supervision or even complaints. The key thing to remember is that you need to use feedback constructively and understand that person’s viewpoint, then consider how you can use this to develop your working style.
Take advantage of free opportunities where available
We know that budgets are tighter than ever before, so it’s vital that you take advantage of free opportunities where available. Work with colleagues to share news and information with each other or see what learning initiatives are available with your local safeguarding boards.
Share your knowledge with peers and colleagues
A core part of your CPD portfolio should be your contribution to creating an open learning culture within your workplace. This means that if you learn something new, make sure you share your expertise with peers. It may be information from a training course that you’ve attended, research that you’ve read online or even just anecdotal feedback from someone you’ve been working with.
Learning from another is an effective way to improve services and it’s easy to understand how something can work when it’s accompanied by a realistic scenario.
If you need help with your CPD portfolio this year, make use of our dedicated careers hub which is packed full of guidance.