Returning to social work practice?

How do I return to practice?

If you are a former social worker looking to return to practice, you’ll need to apply for restoration to the Social Work England (SWE) Register through their website. You’ll also need to make sure you meet the eligibility criteria, and you may have to provide evidence that you’ve kept your skills and knowledge up to date in the time since you were last registered. 

What are the eligibility requirements to return to social work practice?

  • In order to apply to be restored to the register:

  • You must be qualified and previously registered as a social worker, either with Social Work England or their predecessor the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

  • You must not have been removed from the register due to one of the offences listed in SWE’s Registration Rules

  • You must not have been subject to a removal order within the last five years

  • If you were removed from the register more than five years ago, you must not have made an unsuccessful attempt to re-register in the past 12 months

How do I apply to return to social work practice?

You will need to set up an account with Social Work England if you do not already have one. This account allows you to submit your application as well as pay registration fees and record CPD.

If you do not have an existing online account with Social Work England, you can email to request one. The subject of your email should be ‘Request restoration account’. To help the team find your information, the email should contain the following:

  • The name you were last registered under (rather than your current name if this has changed)

  • Your date of birth

  • Your previous registration number with Social Work England or the HCPC

  • The postcode you were last registered under


What kind of information will I have to provide?

You will need to provide the following:

  • Proof of a legal name change, if you have changed your name since you were last registered (e.g. a marriage certificate)

  • Details of your social work qualification

  • Evidence that you have kept your skills and knowledge up to date (if you have been off the register for over two years)

  • Information about your employment since you stopped practicing social work

  • Details of any criminal convictions or cautions since you stopped practicing social work

  • Any health issues which could affect your ability to practice

  • Details of any time your fitness to practice has been investigated by any other regulator

  • You might also be asked for evidence of your English language skills and knowledge, or your past CPD records

Any documents you are providing can be uploaded to your Social Work England account online. They will need to be certified colour copies (which means they must be verified by someone of standing in the community such as a doctor, bank manager, religious official etc)

How long will it take to process my application?

Typically Social Work England will process your application to return to the register in 20 working days.


How much does it cost to return to social work practice?

The restoration fee is currently £135 – this is non-refundable and covers the administration costs of processing an application. You will also need to pay your usual registration fee. The annual fee is £90, but if you are applying partway through the year you will not have to pay the full amount.


How do I evidence that my skills and knowledge are up to date?

If you left the register in the last two years, you’ll need to share at least one piece of CPD as part of your application.

If it has been over two years since you were last registered, you’ll need to provide more evidence to Social Work England to show that you’ve kept your skills and knowledge updated. If you have been unregistered for between 2 and 5 years, you’ll need to evidence a minimum of 30 days spent updating your skills, knowledge and experience. If it has been over 5 years since you were registered, the requirement is 60 days.

In this context, a ‘day’ is considered to be a minimum of 7 hours. There is no requirement for your 30 or 60 days to be continuous, but they must have taken place no more than 12 months before you submit your application.

You have three ways to update skills, knowledge and experience:

  • Supervised practice (Practical work, supervised by a registered social worker)

  • Formal study (Studying through an approved institution or other provider)

  • Private study (Which can include CPD and online learning

Private study can only make up 50% of your total days.

What is Supervised Practice?

This means working in a social work or social work-related role, under the supervision of a registered social worker. The work can be paid or unpaid, but your supervisor must have been registered as a social worker for at least three continuous years. You can do supervised practice in the UK or abroad. You don’t necessarily have to be working in a statutory social work setting, as long as the work is related to social work and you have a registered social worker as your supervisor.

The actual work involved in supervised practice is not specified by Social Work England, but it could include providing support or signposting information to service users, shadowing or undertaking assessment work, attending training, or carrying out care planning.

For each period of supervised practice, you’ll need to provide details of where and when you carried out the supervised work, what you did, and the details of your supervisor so that Social Work England can contact them to confirm the information is correct.

What counts as Formal Study?

This would include any formal learning you have completed during the 12-month period before you submit the application, such as postgraduate study at university or college, or specialised ‘return to social work’ programmes.

If you’re not sure whether a course you’re interested in would count as formal study, you can contact Social Work England to check before enrolling.

You can evidence formal study by providing a scan or certified copy of your course certificate as part of your application.

What counts as Private Study?

Any activity which is self-directed and keeps your skills or knowledge up to date would fall under this category, for example:

  • Reading journal articles or books

  • Viewing or attending talks and lectures

  • Attending training sessions

  • Informal shadowing of a social worker 

You’ll need to evidence private study by demonstrating how each part of your studies has contributed to your learning and development, and by providing details of the date, number of hours spent, and what you did.