Brunel forced to cut student intake as placement crisis bites

Brunel University has cut the number of students on its social work degree because of problems finding practice placements. The move comes as concerns emerge about the supply of placements in urban councils. The west London university will take about 45 students this year, down from 65.

Today, Community Care also publishes an open letter to children’s secretary Ed Balls and care services minister Ivan Lewis about placement supply from London South Bank University social work professor Keith Popple and social work education consultant Jan O’Hara.

They say there is a “huge struggle” to ensure students are allocated a placement in statutory social work, as is required, in London and other cities, and that some councils have failed to prioritise practice learning. The letter calls for more and ring-fenced investment from government, and urges Balls and Lewis to chair a meeting with stakeholders on the issue.

It says: “If local authorities and the Department of Health want more social workers working in the more difficult statutory sector of social work then they will need to give more funding to make it happen.”

The DH set up the Practice Learning Taskforce to improve the quantity, quality and diversity of placements in 2003. It ran until 2006, during which the supply of placements improved, before its functions transferred to Skills for Care’s regional learning resource networks.

Helen Keville, national project manager for practice learning at Skills for Care and a member of the task force, said the quantity of statutory placements was a problem in London, but elsewhere supply was sufficient. She said placement quality remained a problem, and Skills for Care, the GSCC and university representatives had devised new quality standards, which would be piloted in the North West with a view to a national roll-out in September 2008.

Each degree student must do a minimum of 200 days’ practice learning, up from 120 for the Diploma in Social Work.

Related articles

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Graduate focus: should there be a ‘provisional licence’ for social workers fresh out of college?

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More information

Practice Learning Taskforce


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