Audrey Thomson from the SSSC, explains why we ask for certain types of qualifications, what’s involved in getting a qualification and what support is available

We Audrey Thomson

Why do we ask for the types of qualifications we do?

For workers in care at home and housing support we ask they have or gain a qualification such as a SVQ Social Services and Healthcare at SCQF Level 6 or HNC Social Services. We call these practice qualifications.

All practice qualifications are developed to meet the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the social service sector. They are developed through consulting a range of people in the sector, such as employers, workers, assessment centres and colleges about what workers need to know and demonstrate in their everyday practice. Along with registration, these qualifications give assurance to the public that social service workers are meeting set standards in their work, which enhances the reputation, status and value of our sector.

For further information on benchmark qualifications and career pathways please also see

Why must qualifications include observed assessed practice?

Observed and assessed practice is part for any qualification award that we approve. This is important because during observed practice workers demonstrate that they not only have the right knowledge and understanding to meet the NOS but that they also know how to apply it in their daily work.

How do I find out what qualification workers need to complete for registration?

Use our qualification tool on our website to check what qualification your staff need for registration

Workers can register without having a qualification but must agree to work towards it within a certain timescale, usually five years.

What about workers who already have a qualification, could it be acceptable for registration?

Some workers already have older qualifications and these may have been previously accepted as meeting the qualification criteria for registration. You can see a list of older qualifications on the qualification tool on our website.

Workers with lots of experience might be able to use Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) to help them gain a qualification relevant to their role. You might also gain credit towards qualifications by using previous certificated learning. Contact your colleges and assessment centre for help in accessing RPL.

Could our organisation/service offer Modern Apprenticeships (MA)? Would that be acceptable for registration?

Yes, employers in a housing support and care at home setting could offer an MA Social Services and Healthcare at SCQF level 6. As many care at home and housing support workers are lone workers it is important for employers to provide appropriate induction and ongoing support to promote a safe and competent care environment whilst also creating an effective setting for learning.

MAs offer people aged over 16 paid employment combined with the opportunity to train for jobs at different levels. They can also be used to up skill existing employees. Funding is available to support the delivery of MAs.

What’s involved in completing a qualification?

Workers can gain a qualification through college and/or through work based assessment centres. Sometimes employers may choose to employ independent assessment centres, others may have ‘in house’ centres.

It is important that workers take time to meet with their assessor for planning and feedback, as well as time for work place assessors to observe their practice. Likewise when completing an HNC there will be similar time needed for SVQ assessed units.

I’ve a worker who doesn’t feel confident about undertaking a qualification. What can I do to help them?

If someone hasn’t studied for a while it can feel daunting to begin a qualification. However, you can reassure the person that SVQs look at everyday work. Qualifications are based on NOS and workers with the right induction and experience should already be working to NOS. Assessment centres can use lots of different methods to gain evidence of a worker’s competence; these will include observed practice, reflective accounts, looking at products, discussions with the assessor, witness testimony from others. However, the assessment will always include some written evidence.

Later on this year, the SSSC will publish a guide for people who find it difficult to write for a variety of reasons. This guide will tell them where they can go for help in their local area and who will support them to develop their writing skills.

Also, see our case studies from other workers about their experience in gaining qualifications and hear what they would say to other workers worried about gaining a qualification.

What support should I give workers who need to gain a qualification to get registered?

It is a requirement of the Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers to:

3.2    Contribute to providing social care and social work education and learning, including effective workplace assessments and practice learning.

3.3    Support staff who need to be registered with us to meet the conditions for registration and the requirement for continuing professional development.

You can support workers in different ways. Some employers will fund qualifications fully; others will expect workers to invest both time and money to gain qualifications. It often depends on what resources are available but you are required to help workers gain a qualification for registration and help maintain and develop workers ongoing practice learning.

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