This week’s announcement that bursaries will form part of the
government’s programme to reform social work training and student
support is likely to increase the numbers of students attending
social work courses.
The bursaries are worth £3,000 a year plus tuition fees,
although it includes a flat-rate allowance of £500 to meet the
cost of travelling to practice placements. People responding to the
government’s social work recruitment campaign are now less likely
to be discouraged by what are often seen as the prohibitive costs
But no one should underestimate the scale of the problem. According
to the latest statistics the number of people applying to become
social workers continues to fall. There were just 4,703 applicants
to the social work admissions system for courses starting in 2001
compared with 11,526 in 1995, a fall of 59 per cent.
The money, even supported by the recruitment drive, will not be
enough to restore to social work training the time when there were
sufficient students to meet the demand. If that is to happen, much
more will have be done to make social work more appealing,
especially to younger people for whom careers in the public service
have long since lost their lustre.