Regulator proposes extra training in first two years to bring social work in line with medicine
The General Social Care Council has signalled an overhaul of post-qualifying training including making it a condition of re-registration for every social worker in England.
The regulator said that newly qualified social workers were being landed with an increasing number of “complex and risky” cases such as Baby P for which they needed greater expertise.
GSCC chief executive Mike Wardle told Community Care that the council would examine ways of making post-qualifying awards compulsory because too many employers were leaving social workers to manage their own post-qualifying education alone.
In future, all newly-qualified social workers could be expected to achieve a specialist-level post-qualifying award in their first two years of practice, bringing social work into line with professions such as medicine, he said.
The syllabus may also be strengthened to include two new awards: on safeguarding either children or both children and vulnerable adults, and on forensic social work.
“There’s a debate to be had with employers and frontline social workers as to whether the generic post-qualifying award in children, families and their carers is sufficient to provide the skills needed to undertake highly complex child protection cases,” Wardle said.
A forensic award would give social workers the skills to “get to the bottom of what’s going on” in cases where families were “difficult to work with”, he added.
The GSCC’s annual report on social work education, published last week, concluded that post-qualifying training played an “absolutely central” role in developing social workers’ ability to take on complex cases, and keeping up to date with policy and practice developments. It recommended it should be made “an essential part of continuing professional development, perhaps linked to re-registration”.
At present, social workers must renew their registration every three years after completing 90 hours of post-registration training and learning, which could include activities such as attending courses and conferences.
The GSCC is also reviewing its quality assurance methods regarding degree courses.
Wardle said universities could face visits from GSCC inspectors as part of a new regime, and might be required to form stronger partnerships with employers. This follows concerns that some were failing to take advantage of the expertise of managers in the field.
Meanwhile, a new performance-related funding model for the 71 universities and nine higher education institutions that provide the degree, could take the quality of teaching into account for the first time.
The GSCC’s annual report also revealed that while almost 2,700 social work students graduated in 2007, the pass rate was only 62%. Of the remaining 38% of students, some had to re-submit work or had deferred a year, while 11% had left the course. Less than 2% failed.
Despite reports of recruitment problems in local authorities across England, the unemployment rate for graduates was nearly a fifth. Of the 6,000 newly-qualified social workers who registered in 2007, 23% were described as unemployed.
Wardle said that while there was a lack of data to explain this statistic, there could be a mismatch between the intended area of practice of some newly-qualified practitioners and the jobs that were available in their part of the country. Some social workers might also be less mobile than other professionals because they are older, he added.