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‘Thank you’ says Northern Ireland’s social care regulator as it turns 21

03 October 2022

1 October marked 21 years since the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (the
Social Care Council) began the challenge of bringing forth a new era for social care
regulation in Northern Ireland and it is marking the occasion by saying thank you to the
43,000 social care workers, social workers and social work students on its public register.

The Social Care Council was set up at the request of government through the Health and
Personal Social Services Act (Northern Ireland) 2001 to bring in United Kingdom-wide
regulatory change, initially for the social work profession and then later for social care
workers, with one overarching goal – to protect the public.

Over the past 21 years the Council, has provided a single point for professional regulation of
social workers and social care workers to ensure people are protected and receive high
quality care and support. The Council has sought to improve standards of practice and care
by setting standards for social work education and training, supporting the development of
the social care workforce and providing a robust registration process.

From its inception the Social Care Council has led the way in professional regulation in
Northern Ireland. Its underpinning legislation was one of the first Acts to be passed by the
Northern Ireland Assembly from the then Department of Health, Social Service and Public
Safety (DHSSPS). It was the first social work regulator to set up a mandatory assessed year in employment
(AYE) for those coming out of university, ensuring additional support for new qualified social
workers. It was the first, and remains the only UK professional regulator to be an awarding
body for a post qualifying education and training.

Paul Martin, Chair of the Social Care Council, said:

Though involved in drafting its legislation as the Chief Social Services Worker at the DHSSPS in
2001, when I returned to the Council as Chair in 2018, it was a bigger and more vibrant
organisation, committed to working for and supporting the development of the social work
and social care workforce. This was especially evident during the pandemic in supporting the
workforce during such a difficult time for the health and social care system.

The one constant over the last 21 years is that the Council’s aims and ambitions have not
fundamentally changed as it continues to ensure that people who use social services
are protected, maintaining a focus on improving standards of practice and standards of care
provided by both social workers and social care workers, and supporting the standing and
status of the social work and social care workforce.

Patricia Higgins, CEO of the Social Care Council was appointed in 2022 to lead Council. She said:

First of all, I would like to say thank you to all the registered social workers and registered
social care workers. We have seen over and over again how they are in many cases the
unsung heroes of the health and social care system. Our role is to support them in their professional lives to provide the best standard of care.

The need for more complex care and greater demand for social work and social care
services is challenging for governments and the health and social care system, alike, and, as
new issues emerge, the Council has been actively engaging with registrants and partners,
identifying ways we can support them. Much has changed since the launch of the Council,
but its role is as crucial as ever. As a workforce regulator our statutory role of registration,
setting standards for conduct and ensuring fitness to practise, and quality assuring education
and training remains central; but equally important, as an organisation we have really found
our place within the health and social care system supporting social workers and social care
workers to be the best that they can be.

The 21 Milestones in 21 Years timeline, released alongside the anniversary
looks back at the work of the Council over the years.

Notes to editor

Check out our #SCC21years story – 21 key milestones in 21 years

Here we share some of the highlights of the Social Care Council’s 21-year journey from its
inception to where it is today.

About the Social Care Council – Together we are raising standards of care

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (Social Care Council) is a public body established
by the Department of Health (DoH) to support high quality standards of social work and
social care. Our purpose is to register, regulate and support the development of a strong and
professional social work and social care workforce that meets the complex needs of our

October 2022 marks our 21st anniversary and the policy objectives set out for the Social

Council in 2001 hold firm today:

• to strengthen and support the professionalism of the workforce,
• to raise standards of practice, and
• to protect the people who use services.

For more information:

Rita Lewtas, Head of Strategic Communications and Engagement