The number of students who receive a social work bursary will be capped from the academic year 2013, the government has announced.
In addition, undergraduate students will only be able to apply for the bursary in their second and final years. This reflects the fact that social work students have to undertake 200 days of placements in those years, which reduces their ability to take on paid part-time work to support themselves, the Department of Health (DH) said.
The DH launched a long-awaited consultation on the bursary earlier this year, in a bid to make funding for social work education deliver more value for money.
A proposal to scrap the bursary altogether was met with strong opposition. The other four options on the table included a cap on the numbers receiving the bursary or making the system means-tested.
In a statement today, the DH said it hoped reducing the availability of the bursary would help to attract only those with a serious desire to become social workers to the degree.
“These changes are designed to drive up care standards in the sector and will give employers a higher quality pool of candidates to choose from,” said care minister Norman Lamb.
The College of Social Work welcomed the decision, having argued strongly in favour of bursaries continuing for both undergraduates and postgraduates, with a priority being placed on postgraduate courses, where no other funding sources are available.
“It is hugely important to have this announcement now, just as students are submitting their applications to UCAS for entry to the social work degree programme in 2013,” said Anne Mercer, professional advisor for the College.
“We believe the model the Department of Health is adopting will provide a fair and sustainable bursary for the future.”