MPs today called for an overhaul of the system of social work training at all levels describing it at “not fit for purpose”.
The children, schools and families select committee said newly qualified social workers were often unprepared for the cases they were given, while more experienced practitioners were not receiving sufficient post-qualifying training.
In a report, it said training standards were being undermined by a lack of adequate workforce planning, universities and employers’ failure to work together, resource pressures in councils and the fragmentation of responsibility for training across a range of bodies.
It made a string of radical recommendations which, while focused on children’s services, would apply to adult services as well, given the generic basis of intial social work training.
Social Work Development Agency proposed
The MPs called for the establishment of a new Social Work Development Agency to take responsibility for workforce development in social work from the Children’s Workforce Development Council and, by implication, Skills for Care.
It would also fund and commission social work training across England, ending the system by which universities decided how many places they provided without regard to the level of workforce demand locally from councils.
The committee said this needed to be accompanied by the development of a workforce supply and demand model which took account of demography, deprivation and other factors, saying it was “untenable” that this did not exist already.
Quangos ‘should be streamlined’
It said the establishment of the agency should form part of a “streamlining of the national sector bodies and rationalisation or their remits”, saying this was an urgent priority in addressing fragmentation in responsibility for the workforce.
The MPs said there was currently a “gulf of understanding between employers and educators of social workers”, and said this needed to be addressed by making social work training the responsibility of formal partnerships of employers and universities.
It said this would give employers greater opportunities to influence the intake and content of courses, while making firm commitments to providing statutory placements, which it said all students should undergo, something that does not currently happen.
Compulsory training year backed
Significantly, it joined the Social Work Task Force in backing the introduction of a compulsory internship for graduates, effectively extending social work training from three to four years.
Social workers would only be able to register with the General Social Care Council having completed the assessed year, while the committee said councils should be given extra funding to deal with the pressures this would introduce.
The committee also called for an increase in the average A-level entry standards for social work courses, which are currently lower than for teaching or nursing degrees.
PRTL ‘must be made more stringent’
It also said requirements for post-registration training and learning needed to be made more stringent and linked to formal post-qualifying training, with funding for courses guaranteed centrally by government.
The report also called for the introduction of a national pay scale for social workers, with progression tied to the achievement of qualifications and the taking on of extra responsibilities.
Committee chair Barry Sheerman said: “The vast majority of social workers are excellent, but they deserve the level of education, training and support that a mature profession would provide.
“Social workers need a high-quality national training body and high-profile national leadership of their profession, and they need to be better rewarded.”
Articles on the select committee’s evidence sessions
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