70% of social workers worry about their newly qualified colleagues

The latest research into job opportunities for newly qualified social workers paints a bleak picture for future graduates, but opinions are divided over whether the assessed year will provide a solution

Credit: Geoffrey Robinson/Rex Features

Concerns over the quality of social work graduates persist, with many practitioners worried that their newly qualified colleagues are not skilled enough to practise safely, according to the latest research.

A survey of over 600 social workers carried out by recruitment agency Liquid Personnel found that 70% thought graduates were entering the profession “without sufficient skills and experience to begin practising”. The findings come as the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) is rolled out in England this month.

Of the 150 newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) to respond to the survey, 69% said they had suffered from a lack of practice placement opportunities, which may go some way towards explaining the skills gap.

The large majority (91%) reported difficulties finding appropriate jobs.

“Failure to give newly qualified social workers adequate opportunities today will widen the skills gap and lead to a dearth of skilled practitioners in the near future,” said Jonathon Coxon, managing director of Liquid Personnel.

Coxon said he hoped the launch of the ASYE would address some of the problems facing newly qualified social workers.

But the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) warned against relying on the assessed year, given some graduates may not have access to it.

“BASW supported the principle of a supported first year in employment, but has considerable reservations about its implications in the new economic climate,” said Joe Godden, professional officer at BASW.

“When nearly all students were able to obtain employment as a social worker, the ASYE was a logical progression to consolidate learning. In the present climate, when a significant proportion of students are not finding employment – or employment that enables them to undertake an ASYE – there are major implications for that individual.”

On the ongoing lack of high quality practice placements, the College of Social Work pointed out that the Social Work Reform Board has already put in place measures to improve the system – so the focus should now be on implementation.

“Decent practice placements for all students will only come about through higher education institutions and employers working together to ensure that the reform board’s changes are implemented,” said Anne Mercer, professional advisor for the College.

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