Continuing Professional Development: Why is it important for Social Care Workers?

Social care is a demanding role with much responsibility and trust assigned to the practitioner working in the life space of the service user. Practitioners often work alone and need to rely on personal and professional experience coupled with good judgement to make informed decisions. Whether working alone or with others, practitioners make decisions in often complex or challenging situations. These decisions are often made within other challenging contexts of safety and need, thus practitioners are engaging in dynamic risk management, perhaps without even being aware of it. Increased societal expectation and extended professional careers for those in social care increase the need to stay abreast of new developments. For these reasons, it is important that practitioners have opportunities to learn and reflect on practice and experiences in order to develop a deeper self-awareness, build capacity and develop skills. For many working in social care, this process has occurred naturally through personal reflection, team de-briefing and discussion with teammates coupled with ongoing training. This semi-formal process of developing competencies can prove to be very effective for some and ineffectual for others. For example, where practitioners fail to integrate learning into their practice and/or decide that the profession isn’t for them though frustrations at getting nowhere with service users or a perception of lack of support.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the process of maintaining and improving the skills, knowledge and experience gained both formally and informally through work, beyond initial training. It's a record of what is experienced, learned and applied. This can take many forms such as training, discussion at supervision and personal reflection.

The pending registration of Social Care Workers with CORU will require practitioners to engage in and keep a record of their CPD. This will be essential to demonstrate fitness to practice and maintain registration. Practitioners will be required to maintain a CPD portfolio including the following: Description of practice setting and professional role

  • Personal Learning Plan (following a review of learning needs)
  • Record of learning activities – with evidence
  • Demonstration of engagement in learning
    • Supervision record
    • Certs of attendance at training
    • Reflective practice journal
  • Reflective practice worksheets

Sixty CPD credits will be required over each 2-year cycle. A CPD credit equates to approximately 1 hour of new learning. This means that the hours spent completing training will be counted but not refresher training. Trained assessors will review a percentage of CPD portfolios at the end of each 2-year cycle. If a portfolio is deemed non-compliant, a registrant may be allowed more time to become compliant. Failure to submit a portfolio or continued failure to reach standards will result in a fitness to practice hearing for the Social Care Worker (Byrne, 2016).

The very task of compiling a portfolio of learning may come as a burden to some who are unfamiliar with documenting their own learning and development, indeed, it may take some time to acclimatise for those who have been out of college for a long time. It may also be seen as another in a long list of administrative tasks that have become so prevalent in the social care workplace which take time away from the service user. However, it can also be embraced as an opportunity.

A CPD portfolio is a chance to document all the experiential learning, the application of training to practice and to create a personal body of work for the Social Care Worker to be proud of. The plan can also be used as a basis to request additional training or education from the employer or professional body. It is imperative to add that the benefits to service users across Ireland of every Social Care Worker engaging in this process could be exponential. A further engaged social care workforce who are willing to reflect and put learning into practice on a regular basis can only improve outcomes for service users.

For further information on CPD and professional registration of Social Care Workers, please go to the following websites: