Smith spells out need for new skills

All future social work students will have to
demonstrate their ability to work “confidently and effectively”
with other professionals under new requirements for training
announced by health minister Jacqui Smith at Community

said the new three-year social work degree course would also focus
on communication skills as well as areas such as law and human
growth and development. She added that the new qualification would
“put social work on a par with other graduate

said when she originally trained as a teacher, courses “lacked
rigour” and theory and practice were delivered as two separate
strands. It was important to avoid the same mistakes in social work

“Social work, like teaching, is a
very practical job. It is about protecting people and changing
their lives, not about being able to give a fluent and theoretical
explanation of why they got into difficulties in the first place,”
she told a packed hall.

said the new degree courses must ensure that theory and research
directly inform and support practice. “That is why students will
spend a minimum of 200 days’ learning in practice settings,” she

Department of Health is setting up a task force to increase the
quality and quantity of practice placements. This will work with
employers and higher educational institutions to ensure employers
are providing enough high-quality practice placements for
tomorrow’s social workers.

said the government would be undertaking a full review of the
funding of practice learning and will announce the outcome early
next year.

also told the conference that the £15m training strategy
implementation fund, announced in February, is to be used to
support 26,500 staff to undertake a range of training opportunities
including induction training and improving National Vocational
Qualification award structures by training staff to become NVQ
assessors, mentors and verifiers.

would “enable employers to be able to train their staff and
managersÉ and promote a culture of lifelong learning and
continuous professional development within social care.”

Turning to the issue of joint
working she stressed that health and social services must work
together in partnership, and that could be achieved either through
section 31 partnership arrangements or care trusts.

“Social care professionals have
much to teach health workers about being user centred,” she said.
“I believe that social services do have a special approach which
the NHS can learn from, an approach that should be nurtured and
maintained. But I also believe that social services can learn from
the NHS.”

added that the department of health had been notified of over 100
sites that are using the flexibilities now available, spending over
£1bn, with over half of them led by local authorities. And
many more sites have expressed an interest.


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