The government is keen on introducing a national admissions criteria for social work courses, including a test of the social care values of applicants, a Department of Health (DH) progress report on social work education reforms shows.
The report also states that student placements and bursaries for postgraduate social work students are the top priorities for social work education funding next year, in an indication that undergraduate bursary funding may lose out. The report gives an update on the government’s progress on implementing recommendations from Professor David Croisdale-Appleby’s review of social work education since it was published in February 2014.
The Croisdale-Appleby review found that more consistency was needed in the selection process for social work courses. The review also recommended that student numbers should be “rebalanced towards postgraduate entry” and that priority be given to significantly increasing the funding given to employers for taking students on placement.
On the issue of the selection process, the DH report said that the government is in talks with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) on how the regulator can influence changes to admissions criteria. The government is also “keen to explore” how national assessment and admission criteria can be developed, the report adds.
“The Department believes there is potential for a test to be developed based on social care values (including compassion, dignity, integrity, respect and responsibility) as these are what makes the difference in delivery of care and support services,” the report says.
The DH report says there is scope for regulators to set national tests within a draft bill on regulation of social workers and care workers prepared by the Law Commission. The bill was not included in this year’s Queen’s Speech, suggesting any such legislation would have to be introduced after the next election.
On the issue of practice placements, the DH report says the government intends to increase funding for the student placement component of social work education funding next year.
The social work education budget reduced from £101m in 2011-12 to £90.75m in 2014-15. During that period the availability of the undergraduate bursary was reduced from three years of study to two, while the postgraduate bursary was maintained. The 2015-16 budget will be known early next year but “the top priorities for funding are placements and postgraduate bursaries”, the DH report says.
Other progress updates in the report include:
- The government has commissioned the College of Social Work to develop a proposed model for a continuing professional development framework for social workers. A consultation paper on the scheme and a ‘business case’ for employer investment in social worker CPD will be issued.
- The College has also been commissioned to develop a series of CPD materials. These include an endorsement scheme for best interests assessor training courses, a curriculum guide to inform teaching on the Mental Capacity Act and targeted advice for social workers on dementia.
- The government is working with the social care sector to develop a proposal for formal ‘teaching partnerships’ between education providers and social work employers to “help drive the quality of placements”.
- The government continues to progress the Think Ahead scheme to fast-track graduates into mental health social work. The Croisdale-Appleby review recommended that encouragement be given to “innovative” routes into social work, including fast-track programmes. The two-year Think Ahead programme will begin in summer 2016. The DH report made no reference to the fact Croisdale-Appleby voiced scepticism about the restriction of courses to certain practice areas.
- The DH is consulting on a national assessment for the end of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment for social work with adults and a knowledge and skills statement for adult social work drawn up by Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults.
The Croisdale-Appleby review also recommended that a license to practise should be developed to raise the quality of social work practice. The DH report notes the recommendation but says that introducing the license would require a change of law and would be subject to scrutiny of a detailed proposal including quantification of costs and benefits.
Croisdale-Appleby recommended that once a license to practice was introduced, social workers should face a system of revalidation at least every five years to show that they remain fit to practice and support career-long CPD.