Social work trainers have welcomed a proposal for a mandatory year of supervised practice and continued learning for all newly qualified practitioners in England, but warned it would require the full support of employers and proper government funding to be a success.
Speaking at Community Care Children and Families LIVE last week, the chair of the Social Work Task Force, Moira Gibb, said the panel of experts was likely to recommend a compulsory probationary year in its final report, due next month.
Under the scheme, everyone graduating from the social work degree programme would go on to complete an additional year of supervised practice with protected caseloads before gaining full registration status.
A similar proposal was made in April by the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee, which represents universities providing the social work degree programme, and the Association of Professors of Social Work.
Sue White, ASPW chair and taskforce member, called the recommendation a “very positive development” but said it needed to be properly resourced and supported by central and local government.
“This will allow newly qualified social workers to increase their confidence and expertise and receive appropriate support in line with that available to other professionals, such as teachers, hopefully also stimulating interest in continuing professional development and learning,” she added.
Universities could be involved in assessing and supporting newly qualified social workers in their first year of practice, according to Jackie Rafferty, director of the Higher Education Subject Centre for Social Policy and Social Work at Southampton University, which provides resources to social work training providers across the UK.
But Rafferty warned the system would be dependent on local partnerships between training providers and employers, adding: “For the system to be successful serious consideration needs to be given to how higher education can be involved in supporting the continuous learning of new practitioners and in their assessment prior to registration; as well as to how this will be resourced and funded.”
Support programmes for thousands of newly qualified social workers were rolled out by employers across England for the first time in September this year, overseen by the Children’s Workforce Development Council and Skills for Care. The CWDC began piloting the scheme in children’s services in September 2008.
Gibb’s comments were also welcomed by Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, and Hilary Tompsett, chair of JUC SWEC.
“It would be helpful to have employers and higher education institutions working together on assessment frameworks to help this fit with post-qualifying awards and to ensure consistency of assessment across the country,” Tompsett said, “but overall this is a change to be welcomed.”
ASPW member Jones said the probationary year should be designed to provide an opportunity to specialise in working with either children or adults,