Europe can help reduce vacancies

Solutions to the challenges facing many areas of social work are to
be found nationally and internationally. A good example is the
recruitment crisis in Britain. Vacancy rates are as high as 40 per
cent in some areas, while in Germany several thousand qualified
social workers are seeking employment.

The demand for qualified social workers who are experienced
internationally and the participation of organisations in
multi-national projects are leading universities, social services
departments, providers and welfare associations to act more

German universities and polytechnics are striving to develop
international co-operation. Social work departments are studying
comparative aspects of welfare systems or offering special language
courses. Universities have been endeavouring to broaden
international exchange links. German students are interested in
gaining work experience or studying in the UK because of
interesting developments in UK social work education and practice.

However, it is proving difficult to build exchange links to
universities in the UK, particularly in England. This is because of
the challenge that the German language poses for British students
and because of uncertainties about forthcoming regulations for
social work higher education in the UK. Considering the lack of
social workers in England it is difficult to understand why English
universities do not take advantage of the situation. This would not
solve the recruitment crisis in England, but it could help to
contribute to a European labour market for social workers
interested in gaining work experience in the UK.

Within new exchange links it is desirable to provide students with
practical placements. It would open up new opportunities to broaden
the co-operation of universities by including social services
departments and social care agencies. To include practical
placements in exchange activities can be a way for social care
providers to attract the attention of foreign students who might be
interested in working in Britain when they have completed their

The situation in both our welfare states has the potential for
benefiting both sides. What is needed is a starting point for
improved international co-operation – perhaps placements are such a

Eckhard Hansen is professor of sociology, social services
and social organisations at the faculty of social work and social
welfare, University of Kassel, Germany.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.