New social workers let down by employers when it comes to professional development

A Scottish study suggests social workers are being well-prepared for practice by courses but find employer support lacking

Social workers being given the tools for practice Photo: Richard Stephenson/ flickr

Newly qualified social workers are being let down by  employers when it comes to continuous professional development, research commissioned by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) has found.

The study of 205 newly qualified social workers ( 37% of the total in Scotland) was commissioned by the registering body and  carried out by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University, and  evaluated NQSWs’ readiness to practise in their first year of work.

GCU researcher Scott Grant said: “The results of this study indicate the majority of NQSWs feel well-prepared by social work education in Scotland, but less supported by employers in terms of opportunities for continuous professional development.”


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This finding is contrary to a report from  government adviser Sir Martin Narey which suggested social workers were being inadequately prepared for child protection work by their initial education.

The majority of participants in the research said  they felt generally well prepared by professional qualifying programmes, but 45% said no specific opportunities for professional development were made available by their employer.

A significant proportion of NQSWs surveyed said their workload was not protected and some reported being given complex child or adult protection cases beyond their ability.

“This study has implications for the forthcoming review of social work education in Scotland and builds on research from England and Wales,” Mr Grant said.

“The report challenges  earlier findings and suggests that higher education institutions are preparing students well for the realities of front-line practice.”

Responding to Community Care’s stress survey chief executive of The College of Social Work Annie Hudson said continuous professional development for social workers at all levels of experience was pivotal to retention.

“If we want to retain experienced people, we need to have a coherent CPD framework that means people go on having opportunities for development,” she said.


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One Response to New social workers let down by employers when it comes to professional development

  1. Kim Melhuish January 15, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    The headline to this article does not make it clear that the research is based on Scotland, which does not have an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment or similar, which is present in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That point would have been worth making in this article.