‘I’m not in this job for the money but I do have to eat!’ – a practice educator responds to the day rate cut

Practice educator Helen Bonnick counts the cost of the government’s reduction in day rates for non-statutory student placements

Students
Credit: David Oxberry/Mood Board/Rex (posed by models)

By Helen Bonnick

Helen BonnickThe government says the reduction in the daily rate paid to non-statutory student placement providers, from £28 to £20, is designed to improve the quality of placements.

This claim is disingenuous to say the least and would appear to be related significantly to the past overspend in the Education Support Grant (ESG) budget and the desire to refocus on statutory placements in future as a quality assurance guarantee.

At the same time, the government’s response to its ESG consultation acknowledges that the daily rate paid to practice educators has remained the same since 2003, despite new training and qualifications requirements.

The changes to fees are interim changes for the coming academic year that are to be reviewed following consideration of the two recent reviews of social work education and other changes currently afoot.

So what did those two reviews have to say?

While Martin Narey’s report proposed focusing on statutory agencies to assure the quality of placements, the review from David Croisdale-Appleby recognised a continuing trend in the increase in voluntary sector placement.

Croisdale-Appleby’s review strongly advocated for a significant raising of the rates paid to practice educators as a matter of priority alongside raising their status through better continuing professional development.

It also acknowledged issues around who gets the money in big organisations, but that does not directly affect me as in my role as an offsite educator I command half the daily rate, which is paid to me when students end their placements (there is a whole other discussion there).

For the sake of argument, let’s consider a placement of 100 days and assume the student is on placement 4 days a week.

I will be required to visit every fortnight, as well as attend Learning Agreement and midway meetings, observations and meetings with the onsite supervisor.

This will be an absolute minimum, as often there will be a need for additional support or a visit for an observation will be aborted for one reason or another.

I may well have to travel a considerable way to get to the placement but let’s average it out at a one-and-a-half hour return trip since I may be working with up to six students at different venues at a time.

Then there will be the time needed to write reports on visits as well as midway and final portfolio reports.

Do you want me to skimp on these?

No, I thought not, so let’s allow an hour per visit and we’ll round the big reports into this.

It’s starting to look as if I’m working for around £13 an hour at the new rate.

So my question is this: How does reducing the pay to people who are trusted to assess the progress and development of students, at the same time as requiring a higher level of training and qualification, increase the quality of these assessments or of the placements, or students themselves?

As an offsite practice educator, I would never pretend that I’m in it for the money.

Nevertheless, I have got to eat!

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5 Responses to ‘I’m not in this job for the money but I do have to eat!’ – a practice educator responds to the day rate cut

  1. Pat Curran May 22, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    As a highly experienced off site practice educator of many years standing, I fully endorse the comments made by the writer. Also when providing additional support to failing students, we will be earning a lot less than £13 an hour at the new rate. I can see many practice educators voting with their feet since apart from having no pay rise for 11 years, this is the final insult.

  2. Viv Kynaston May 26, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    It is about the money – a fair days pay for a fair days work! I hope the College of Social Work, BASW and the National Organisation of Practice Teachers will get together to fight this. I’ve been a part-time Off-Site Practice Educator since I retired from full-time work 8 years ago, and the demand for off-sites has increased because of pressures on supervisors who know they can’t give enough of their own time to a student. I love the work and always feel inspired by the outstanding students we see going into the profession, but there are a lot of easier things I could enjoy doing with my time rather than take a pay cut of nearly 30%.

  3. Pat Curtis May 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    I’d agree.I’m an experienced off site PE.Am retired so this adds to my pension.However I’m not in it for the money but agree the rate is a pittance for the work carried out. This year have been PE for several students,travelling to see them every 10 days,not usually at great distance but it all adds up.I do the usual meetings,Obs etc and take some students who the university or LA have struggled to place or when there have been difficulties within organisations. I also give specialised PE support to SW students placed in schools. Support from the universities is often minimal and I’m also asked to offer support to the OSS whether or not they are qualified workers. Not a great ddeal of pay when you are the person consistently supporting the student through enormous change!

  4. John M Brown May 30, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    I largely agree with the article and subsequent comments. I work in Cumbria and travel for, on average an hour and a half round trip when supervising students.
    It, of course, comes as no surprise that this government has cut funding but who do they think they are kidding when suggesting this will improve anything! I really thought we were getting somewhere with the reforms but …………..!

  5. Viv Kynaston June 2, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    I strongly agree with the previous two comments. I also thought the reforms were going in the right direction and making some progress in strengthening social work as a profession, but this mindless cut goes in the opposite direction. Devastating consequences for students for what must be a very small saving in relation to other areas. ‘Designed to improve the quality of placements’! That’s worthy of Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984!