New arrangements for post-qualifying social work training in Scotland could lead to a wide variation in course standards and fragmented career paths, an expert has warned.
The new post-qualifying framework, which will apply to the whole social care workforce and not just social workers, will be introduced in 2008. Although the need for the new framework is widely recognised, some experts fear it could dilute the skills taught to social workers through existing PQ courses.
Details of the new framework have still to be decided, but initial talks have raised concerns that academic institutions may validate and quality-assure their own courses. There is also concern over the extent to which council and independent sector staff will shape courses’ contents.
Mary Coles, manager at the Post Qualifying Consortium for Social Work in Scotland, the body that accredits PQ training but which will be scrapped under the new arrangements, said there could be “huge” variation in what is taught if the validating role were passed to academic institutions.
She said: “Under the current PQ framework, individuals and employers could plan their continuous professional development around awards that were consistent across Scotland. If you don’t have that framework holding it together there is the potential for fragmentation.”
Coles also said employers would want institutions to develop courses that reflected local workforce needs.
Although this would create more flexible training, she said it would be moving away from “recognised career pathways that have core awards within them”.
Kate Skinner, senior teaching fellow at Stirling University’s social work department, said she supported changes to the system but warned that some people felt it could dilute the current focus on social work.
“The rigour that’s been applied to PQ social work education could be lost in the bigger task of ensuring the whole workforce has access to qualifications and continuous development,” she said.
Carole Wilkinson, chief executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, said regional learning networks comprising employers and training providers should ensure consistency of courses and that PQ training had to reflect changes in the workforce. “We need workers who can work more flexibly,” she added.