The General Social Care Council says that universities must forge stronger partnerships with employers to ensure social work students receive the best possible training in the social work degree.
An in-depth review of the social work degree recommends partnerships to solve other problems such as the shortage of high-quality placements and lack of support for newly-qualified social workers.
Universities’ partnership working “insufficient”
The GSCC review found evidence that some universities displayed “insufficient effort to build the necessary robust partnerships” with employers. For example, managers said they would gladly lead teaching sessions but were disappointed at rarely being asked to do so.
There was “continuing concern about both the quantity and quality” of placements, which students viewed as an important part of their training.
The long-standing concern of unreasonable expectations faced by newly-qualified social workers, including the size and complexity of caseloads, was also raised. This would affect long-term retention of staff.
GSCC to step up monitoring
Respondents supported keeping the generic social work degree – matching the view of the GSCC – with professional development helping students specialise in adults’ or children’s services.
Chief executive Mike Wardle promised the GSCC would ensure that universities increased their co-operation with employers in its role as the regulator of social work education and training.
Wardle explained the lack of high-quality placements was due to “a lack of clear quality criteria”, but stressed that a new set of quality standards being piloted by the GSCC would help tackle this issue.
He pointed to a number of initiatives designed to improve support for newly-qualified practitioners, such as the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s newly-qualified social worker scheme, currently being piloted, and a similar scheme being drawn up by Skills for Care.
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The GSCC’s 2007 Social Work Education Quality Assurance Report