Comparing the support schemes for newly qualified social workers across the UK

Most councils in England have adopted the ASYE, but how does it compare to the programmes offered in other countries? Rachel Schraer reports

Stressed social worker
Viewers recognised how challenging a social work career is (Image Broker/Rex, posed by model)

Community Care’s investigation into the recruitment and retention of newly qualified social workers across the UK suggests the majority of local authorities in England have now rolled out the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE). Here is an at-a-glance guide to the ASYE and equivalent schemes or approaches across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

England: Assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE)

Introduced in September 2012, the ASYE is a one-year programme aimed at supporting and developing newly qualified social workers (NQSWs). It is designed to consolidate what recent graduates learned during their degrees and sees participants supervised through a gradually increasing caseload, which is reviewed throughout the year.

How does it work?

NQSWs have a chance to reflect on their progress, as well as to be observed at various points and given a personal development plan. The assessment of the year is intended to be holistic, assessing the broad spectrum of skills necessary for social workers as interrelated, in a move away from modular assessment that considers each skill in isolation.

Is it compulsory?

No, the ASYE can be implemented by individual authorities at their own discretion.

What are people saying about it?

“We are pleased that most local authorities (and a growing number of independent sector employers) are taking up the ASYE,” says Joe Godden, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers. “I think it’s a good thing that it is not compulsory; if it was, it might be that people would take it less seriously – just ticking the boxes.”

Wales: First year in practice 

The first year in practice in Wales is made up of two sets of guidance introduced in 2008. One is for employers and lays out the arrangements all employers of social workers should have in place to support their newly qualified social workers. The other is for the social worker and describes what they should expect form employers and the steps they can take to prepare for practice and progress their learning.

How does it work?

The model recommends nine elements to be included in the arrangements for NQSWs in their first year. These include: having a personal development plan based on their existing skills and areas that need consolidation and development; structured supervision and planned relevant learning opportunities; a designated mentor; and opportunities to meet and learn with other NQSWs. The programme involves a system of probation and appraisal, but it is not assessed.

Is it compulsory?

Yes, it is part of the registration process for social workers in Wales.

What are people saying about it?

“The first year in practice places responsibility for supporting NQSW on the whole organisation, not just a part of it, and sets out standards that should protect the social worker from unrealistic expectations, but also enhance and stretch their professional development,” says Ian Thomas, workforce development manager for the Care Council for Wales.

Northern Ireland: Assessed year in employment (AYE)

The AYE was introduced in 2006 and is a year-long programme linked to social workers’ registration. It supports NQSWs through their transition from student to social worker with sets of guidance for both employers and participants of the scheme.

How does it work?

The scheme serves as an induction for NQSWs into the Northern Ireland Social Care Council’s (NISCC) registration standards. NQSWs have professional supervision every two weeks for the first six months and once a month for the final six months. They must undertake at least 10 development days and their progress is reviewed throughout, with a final appraisal against the six key social work roles laid out in the framework for the degree in social work.

Is it compulsory?

Yes.

What are people saying about it?

“The scheme is currently facing some challenges with the difficulty some social work graduates are experiencing in obtaining suitable posts to undertake the AYE,” says Jan Houston, professional adviser for the NISCC. “Many of the posts they are securing are short term contracts and while the scheme does accommodate this, it may result in the AYE taking longer than a year to complete. My advice would be to have an open mind as to where you consider applying for posts.”

Scotland: No formal scheme

Induction for NQSWs in Scotland is the responsibility of the employer. This often includes a commitment to NQSWs having reduced caseloads and additional opportunities for reflection during the first phase of employment. This varies across employers and there is no minimum standard.

How does it work?

The support system available for NQSWs from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) provides a framework to ensure that all NQSWs gather and provide evidence of post-registration training and learning which has supported the consolidation of their knowledge, skills and values. This is a minimum of 144 hours in the first year of post-qualifying practice and must include 30 hours which focuses on how that learning has contributed to the protection of children and adults from harm.

Is it compulsory?

No, there’s no formal or compulsory scheme for NQSWs in Scotland.

What are people saying about it?

“We have taken a different approach to supporting our NQSWs: we believe that it is important that support for the NQSW is situated within the wider professional context and also meets their needs in whatever setting they work,” explains Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the SSSC, adding: “An important aspect of developing this in Scotland has been the learning obtained from the experiences of our colleagues in the other UK countries.”

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