Professional Capabilities Framework and Guidance

Professional Standards (Social Work England)

Professional Standards Guidance (Social Work England)

March 2020: This chapter was amended to add a link to Professional Standards and Professional Standards Guidance  published by Social Work England, as above.

1. Introduction

This chapter is a summary of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) guidance, which is the structure of social work skills professional development in England.

It was first published in 2012, and updated in 2018.

Click here to view a full version of the PCF Framework and Guidance.

The Framework includes:

  • Alignment between PCF 2018 and the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) in the British Association of Social Work (BASW), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Education (DfE);
  • Definition of the PCF 2018;
  • Capabilities;
  • PCF 2018 graphic;
  • Super domains – Purpose, Practice, Impact;
  • Domain descriptors;
  • Level descriptors.

These are outlined below.

2. Alignment with Knowledge and Skills Statements

The PCF outlines the framework of capabilities and professional development. It is linked to the structure of Knowledge and Skills Statements so that the two frameworks can be used in conjunction with each other.

‘The KSS set out what a social worker should know, and be able to do, in specific practice settings, in specific roles and at different levels of seniority. The KSS map onto the Practice domains of the PCF (Knowledge, Critical Reflection and Analysis, Interventions and Skills) and should help guide everyday practice’ Click here to view a full Statement on the PCF and KSS

3. Definition of the PCF

The PCF is the framework for social work practice and learning in England and performs the following functions:

  • sets out nine common domains of capability for social workers;
  • promotes and underpins social work for all social workers across all specialisms and roles;
  • supports social workers to meet requirements of the professional regulator;
  • describes the range of roles within the social work professions;
  • supports employers, workforce leads, managers and supervisors as well as individual social workers, in developing social work careers and ongoing professional learning;
  • is aligned with the International Federation of Social Workers’ (IFSW) global definition of social work through the BASW Code of Ethics for social workers across the UK.

Specialist knowledge, skills or learning content that may be needed in particular work contexts or roles is not described by the PCF.

4. Capabilities

Capabilities are ‘An integration of knowledge, skills, personal qualities, behaviour, understanding and values used appropriately, effectively and confidently, not just in familiar and highly focused specialist contexts but in response to new, complex and changing circumstances’ (Adapted from Stephenson, 1992)

The capabilities described in the PCF provide the basis and rationale for social work practice.

The nine levels of capability outlined in the PCF guides social workers to develop their skill to deal with situations of increasing risk, ambiguity and complexity.

Click here to view the PCF Fan Graphic 

5. Super Domains

There are three super, overarching domains which cut across all other areas. These are:

  • purpose – why we do what we do as social workers, our values, ethics and how we approach our work;
  • practice – what we do – specific skills, knowledge, interventions and critical analytical abilities we develop;
  • impact – how we make a difference and how we know we make a difference. Ability to bring about change through practice, leadership, and professionalism.

5.1 Domain descriptors

The domain descriptors describe key areas of social work practice and were refreshed in 2018 following wide consultation.

  • Professionalism;
  • Values and Ethics;
  • Diversity and Equality;
  • Rights, Justice and Economic Well Being;
  • Knowledge;
  • Critical Reflection and Analysis;
  • Intervention and Skills;
  • Contexts and Organisations;
  • Professional Leadership.

5.2 Level descriptors

Level descriptor outline levels of post within social work and were also refreshed in 2018 following consultation.  These are:

  • Pre-qualifying levels:
  • Point of entry training;
  • Readiness for practice;
  • End of first placement;
  • End of second placement;
  • Newly qualified social worker (ASYE);
  • Social worker;
  • Experienced social worker;
  • Advanced social worker;
  • Advanced social work practitioner;
  • Advanced social work educator;
  • Social work managers/team or practice leads;
  • Strategic social worker;
  • Strategic social work practitioner;
  • Strategic social work educator;
  • Strategic social work managers / leaders.