Plans to reduce the number of placement days from 200 to 130 for social work students in England will not come into effect until the 2011-12 academic year at the earliest, according to academics.
The Social Work Task Force said the reduction should be considered in order to free up more time for universities to focus on academic theory and drive up the standard of placements, following concerns that many were of poor quality.
The government has accepted all of the recommendations in principle and is due to set out a timescale for the reforms in a forthcoming implementation plan.
Steve Myers, director of social work at Salford University, said it was unlikely that any social work programme would be able to respond to the proposal by September 2010, but he did not expect such an early deadline.
“We are confident that we can meet any timescales that are proposed, including those for 2011,” he said.
Quality before quantity
Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, said she and many of her academic colleagues supported the recommendation on placements “because quality is more important than quantity”.
Dave Peaty, subject leader at the University of Chichester’s social work department, also supported the plan but stressed the importance of ensuring that another proposal also becomes a reality – that for an assessed year in practice for graduates before they can be fully licensed.
More teaching resources
However, both raised concerns that additional teaching resources would it would be required to cover the additional time spent by students on campus.
White, professor in social work at Lancaster University, said this would also have an impact on the amount of research time available for academic staff – a large source of revenue for universities – while Peaty added: “Our hope is that these recommendations will be backed with realistic development funds and then ongoing funds to sustain the initiative.”
The taskforce also recommended an overhaul of the content and delivery of the social work degree based on an agreed set of standards.
Peaty said the social work academic community would contribute to this work, adding: “We watch with interest as the recommendation is elaborated into a detailed proposal.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said of the taskforce recommendations: “Changes may take time to implement, particularly with respect to social work education. There will be a clear period of notification before any changes come into force.”