The introduction of the social work degree is aimed at
increasing the professionalism of social workers. To help students
with the cost of doing the three-year course several bodies such as
the General Social Care Council offer bursaries.
Now councils are also offering bursaries in return for a
commitment from the student to start their career with the
Most councils that offer bursary schemes provide a grant of
£3,000 for final year students. In return, students are
usually expected to work for two years for the council although if
the new social worker leaves before the period is completed they
have to return part of the bursary. Most councils offer grants for
working in children’s or adult services, which nationally
suffer some of the worse staff shortages.
However, Wiltshire Council is offering to spread the bursary
over three years – £1,000 a year – with the
student expected to do work placements with the council in the
summer holidays. “It allows the council to offer work
experience as well as supporting the student on the degree,”
says Sue Coleman, senior personnel officer at the department of
adult and community services.
The council intends to target first year students at colleges in
September. But its attempts to lure final year students have met
with little success although there was some initial interest.
Coleman puts it down to competition from other local authorities
and a need for some tweaking of the scheme. Students may find that
the commitment “is too much in the first few years of their
career. They have to balance security with career.”
Wiltshire also offers bursaries across all fields, not just
children’s services. Coleman says that the council wanted
“to match the interests of students with areas of work. Also
we wanted an influx of younger staff into the existing
One area to look at, says Coleman, would be to offer bursaries
to people on part-time courses and who want to work part-time. At
the moment the bursaries are for full-timers only.
Other councils also have had problems with offering social work
students bursaries. Enfield Council started offering bursaries last
year but there have been no takers from Middlesex University where
the council has a tie in, says Tracey Moore recruitment and
retention manager for children’s services. “They may
all be going through agencies,” she adds.
Instead the council has had more success using “grow your
own” initiatives. The council has introduced the post of
social work assistants to work with social work teams. “This
year we have five or six and we are currently interviewing more and
plan to expand to more than 10,” says Moore.
The assistants work in children’s services. They have
caseloads – although not high risk ones – and attend
meetings and courts with their social work managers. However,
“they do not do any statutory work,” says Moore.
The increasing professionalisation of social work means that
people will be leaving universities with a greater range of skills
and be expecting a far more attractive and varied recruitment
package. Bursaries may be one part of this but councils will need
to expand or find other ways of attracting staff.