Editorial Comment: Post-course challenges

Is the social work degree fit for ­purpose? Last year, minister Beverley Hughes (right) suggested that social work graduates were not adequately prepared for the children’s sector, provoking debate over whether the degree should also be split.

The counter arguments were strong, including the view that a generic degree enables practitioners to assess and support people in their family context. Talk of a split petered out.

A figure released this week – that only one-third of graduates feel ready to do the job – revives that debate and suggests we could face high attrition rates among the next generation of social workers.

The social work degree needs to keep evolving but specialisation isn’t the problem. A Community Care investigation of practice placements last year revealed poor provision and, with the advent of personalisation, service users need to be more involved in many courses.

But the bigger challenge lies with what happens after graduation. How can newly qualified social workers be inducted into jobs effectively and early burnout avoided?

In the children’s sector, there are plans to support NQSWs with pilots later this year. And the ADCS has even called for new legislation to limit caseloads.

But is this really a problem we should be looking to government to solve? All employers, regardless of resource, should be promoting the careful management of caseloads for the newly qualified and providing effective support and supervision. It’s a false economy not to.

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Mike Broad

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