Universities in the West Midlands may undergo urgent inspections by the General Social Care Council of their arrangements for allocating placements for social work students amid reports of shortages in the region.
The regulator has written to all providers of the social work degree in England to remind them of their responsibilities in ensuring the supply of good placements, following concerns raised by a series of reports and experts in recent months.
But the GSCC believes difficulties are particularly acute in the West Midlands after hearing about concerns aired at a regional Skills for Care meeting. A GSCC spokesperson said officials will meet with representatives from nine institutions next month to ensure arrangements are properly resourced, which will be followed by formal inspections where the supply does not appear to be adequate.
The Department of Health’s requirements for social work training state that all students must spend at least 200 days gaining experience in at least two settings, incorporating “statutory social work tasks involving legal interventions”.
However, a Community Care survey of 34 universities earlier this year, which included three in the West Midlands now under scrutiny, found 45% had not allocated statutory placements for all students who graduated in 2008 throughout the course of their studies.
Of those three, only Birmingham University secured statutory placements for all students, compared with 85% at Staffordshire and 88% at Wolverhampton.
The remaining institutions facing inspections from the GSCC are Worcester, Keele, Warwick, Coventry, Birmingham City, and North East Worcestershire College.
Jill Williams, associate dean at the University of Wolverhampton’s school of health and well-being, said two practice learning development workers were employed to monitor the supply and quality of placements.
“There are usually specific reasons why a small handful of students will not be placed in a statutory setting and this continues to be a challenge for us and the agencies that we work with,” she said.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services admitted that some West Midlands councils lacked the capacity to accommodate students on placement.
Peter Traves, a member of the ADCS West Midlands committee, said there were “enormous pressures” on councils to deal with an increase in children’s social care referrals in the wake of the Peter Connelly case and high levels of child poverty.