Portsmouth council children’s services is launching an academy to boost the quality of newly qualified workers in their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) after experiencing people dropping out and poor performance.
Roland Bryant, learning and development manager at the council, said they had particularly had problems with newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) who had not undertaken statutory placements because they were “not prepared for the real world of social work.”
Principal social worker Alby Luguterah said like the rest of the country Portsmouth found it easy to attract NQSWs but not as easy to recruit experienced social workers.
“The only way you can continuously get experienced social workers is to ‘grow your own,” she said.
The academy, which is due to launch next April, will take on two cohorts of up to five NQSWs per year for six months each and is aimed at bridging the gap between graduating from university and entering the ASYE.
The council has taken inspiration from similar models like that in Hertfordshire. The NQSWs coming into the academy will work together in one team- a microcosm of a regular operational team- and, although they will be given their own caseload to work on, there will be a sense of collective responsibility.
They will have the ability to analyse cases together, co-work them or give them over to an experienced social worker if they become too complex. One day a week, academy NQSWs will go into a regular team to work cases alongside more experienced social workers.
Whilst all NQSWs have a protected caseload, academy social workers’ caseloads will be even further reduced while they have weekly master classes, one-on-one mentoring and lots of time to reflect.
“We want to invest in them and show them how social work is done. Ideally we want people who haven’t worked as qualified social workers in another local authority before so we can show them what excellent social work looks like- we want them to not come in with pre-conceived ideas,” said Luguterah.
Bryant added: “Our ASYE programme is fairly robust as it is. Through the academy we want to identify the most appropriate area of children’s social work for each NQSW to go into.
“We can identify during that six months whether looked after children or court of protection work will be right up their street. We’re in this for the longer game so we want to be able to nurture and support people so they feel they want to stay in Portsmouth and build a career,” he said.
The council sees the academy model as not just benefiting the newly qualified social workers, but providing development opportunities for experienced social workers as well.
“We’re hoping our experienced workers will volunteer half of their day, two hours, half an hour, whatever time they have to run sessions with newly qualified workers. They’ll be able to use their expertise and it will develop them as workers as well,” said Luguterah.
“This really is an investment at the front end to reap the benefits further down the line,” said Bryant.