Local authorities must support home-grown newly qualified social workers and resist the temptation to recruit more experienced staff from overseas, a leading academic has said.
Anna Gupta, head of the department of social work at Royal Holloway University, said it would be “scandalous” to recruit from overseas while 27% of newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) in England remained unemployed.
Speaking to Community Care to mark the relaunch of the department, which used to cover health and social care, Gupta rejected the idea of a cap on the number of social work degree places in England while there were high vacancy rates.
Instead, she called on employers to offer more statutory placements to students and to take on and support more NQSWs.
She also highlighted what she perceived as a continuing trend towards social work becoming a master’s-level profession.
“The master’s course at Royal Holloway was always more successful [than the university’s undergraduate social work degree, which closed this year due to lack of resources and poor placement management].”
But she added: “I don’t think the degree is going to go or should go. There are some good quality students who don’t have degrees, but who should have access to social work. But I think there is a move towards master’s level.”
Gupta said Royal Holloway’s new social work department would focus on providing high-quality postgraduate and post-qualifying social work education, and strengthening links with employers.
When asked how the problems that had plagued the undergraduate degree had affected the restructure, Gupta replied that the department had employed a new practice learning manager and co-ordinator.
“All of last year’s students who were able to start a placement on time did,” she said.
The department has also employed more staff from a practice background. Gupta said this was part of a wider attempt to improve links between academia and practice, which also involves developing modules in consultation with employers and expecting staff to focus their research on service delivery issues.
The curriculum has been developed with the Social Work Reform Board’s recommendations in mind. One of the department’s new courses, for example – the MSc in advanced practice – has been mapped across the reform board’s proposed professional capabilities framework.
Gupta said: “That was really useful, because it made us think about the skills people need at different levels of their careers.”
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