For students working toward a Diploma in Social Work lack of
work placements is their biggest worry, Philip Whiteley
If a trainee teacher who planned to teach maths in a secondary
school was offered placements teaching English at primary level it
would hardly be considered acceptable.
Yet this, argued Roger Clough of Lancaster University, at the
recent England Committee of the social work training council
CCETSW, is effectively what we ask of Diploma in Social Work
He said they were often in a state of ‘unease and panic’ over
the difficulty of finding work-based learning during their courses.
‘If they want jobs, it is of immense significance where they did
Everyone in the academic world agrees there are too few practice
placements available, particularly for field social work in the
But committee members clashed over the merits of pooling the
separate funds which support placements, and giving it to colleges
to administer, as a means of tackling the shortage (News, 6
Course providers in Wales are to go ahead with such an
arrangement. And at De cem ber’s meeting of the England committee
the principle of such devolution was approved, though members
agreed not to rule out an alternative system. Since then,
opposition to the move has grown.
Placements are currently funded through separate, earmarked
funds – such as regional budgets for practice learning centres and
the practice placement initiative money – and from a proportion of
central government grant to local authorities.
Maureen Sears, chair person of applied social studies at Ruskin
College, Oxford University, wrote in an open letter recently:
‘There is no evidence to support the suggestion that if this money
were allocated to programmes, they would be effective in generating
a single placement.’ She also warned that practice learning centres
in the voluntary sector would be under threat.
Naomi Eisenstadt, Eng land committee member and assistant
director of the Nat ional Council for Voluntary Organisations,
spoke of the danger that ‘you might pick up a few placements but
lose a lot’, when changing systems.
One problem recognised by those advocating reform is that the
devolved ‘pool’ for each DipSW programme provider would not be very
The chances of adding the local authority allocation to the pool
is very slim, as councils and the Department of Health are not keen
to have money ring-fenced in this way.
According to members of a CCETSW working group on the issue,
that leaves a college around £12 per day per placement. ‘This
is not a great inducement,’ acknowledged Arthur Keefe of the
University of the West of England – who nonetheless backs the
Keefe, Roger Clough and Maggie Calder, vice chairperson of the
England committee, all argue that flexibility is the benefit of a
Clough cited the example of the current lack of funding for
travel costs for undergraduates. ‘Placements which are available at
a distance cannot be funded. If we had this money we could use
The remaining problem is that the global resources for
placements is severely limited.
David Jones, assistant director of CCETSW, pointed out that the
onus lay with social services departments and the government.
Moral persuasion could be brought to bear on local authorities,
he said: ‘Levers can be pulled…If they say they won’t lower the
overall number [of social workers], then we can work with
David Jones: moral persuasion could be brought to bear