Government keen on national admissions criteria for social work courses

Progress update on social work education forms also promises student placements and postgrad bursaries are top priorities for funding

Photo: (posed by models) Monkey Business/Rex Features

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 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.

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