DH and DCSF probe social work degree impact

Government officials are probing social work graduates’ readiness to practice in statutory settings.

In response to concerns about how well degree programmes prepare children’s practitioners, officials from the Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families will visit councils this month.

A Children’s Workforce Development Council survey of 500 newly qualified children’s social workers (NQSWs) this year found just one-third felt the degree had fully or largely prepared them for practice.

A DCSF spokesperson said the visits were designed to inform work on improving training, outlined in its workforce plan for the Children’s Plan.

£73m to improve children’s social work

The DCSF is investing £73m from 2008-11 to boost the quality of children’s social workers, including pilots to provide extra support for NQSWs.

Andrew Christie, children’s services director at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, one of those being visited, said it “was very welcome indeed”.

He said there were major issues about students’ access to practice placements in council children’s services and over the quantity and quality of statutory children’s social work content in some degree programmes, which he said the DCSF was looking at.

Degree split ‘may still be on agenda’

Christie added that the DCSF may also be considering the case for splitting the degree into separate adults’ and children’s qualifications, as was rumoured last year but then ruled out by government. Though he has backed this in the past, he said the key issue was improving children’s social work content in current programmes.

Bernard Walker, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services workforce network, rejected the case for a split, adding: “Children are affected by what happens in families and the core skills of assessment are common.”

The DH’s involvement in the visits is significant given fears about its lack of investment in social work development compared to the DCSF.

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