Social work support staff in Wales will start piloting a new higher education qualification from October, it has been announced.
Support workers in children and adult’s services were nominated by the councils they work for to take part in trialling the two year part-time programme. It will cover the foundations of social work practice for staff involved in assessment, planning, delivering and reviewing services or giving advice about access.
The programme was developed by local authorities, the Care Council for Wales and the Open University (OU), who will deliver it. The curriculum includes psychology, social contexts and professional values as well as approaches, models and issues when working with different groups of service users.
Each of the 22 councils in Wales was given two funded places on the pilot by the Care Council; over 140 other practitioners have been funded by their employer or signed up themselves.
Impetus for the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice came from the Social Services and Wellbeing Wales Act (2014) which set out that all those involved in assessments must have the necessary knowledge, skills and competence.
Judith Davies, head of social work (Wales) at the OU said service users and carers will “undoubtedly” benefit from staff putting what they learn on the course into practice and highlighted that this award was unique in the UK. “It is particularly exciting that the Social Services and Wellbeing Act recognises and values the important and complex role carried out by workers in social services practitioner-type roles,” Davies said.
The Care Council expects to evaluate the impact of the programme after one year. Workforce development manager for the Care Council, Jack Drysdale, said that as well as the quality of practice, the certificate would improve the professional identity and recognition of staff in support roles:
“[It will] provide career opportunities, acknowledgement and a professional status for many workers who found accessing education and learning while they worked difficult.”
The certificate is a level 4 qualification, equivalent to a BTEC or NVQ. Achieving the award also means practitioners who want to become qualified social workers will have the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate social work degree.