Newly qualified social workers face dole due to lack of placements

Newly qualified social workers are struggling to find jobs because they lack experience of statutory social work, an expert has warned.

Even councils with high vacancy rates are rejecting students who have not completed a statutory placement. The message comes from Bill McKitterick (right), a former director of social services and a member of the task group that drew up training requirements for student social workers.

Lack of expertise

McKitterick, now a consultant, told Community Care that a “significant proportion” of graduates had not gained the necessary expertise to apply for posts in key shortage areas.

The General Social Care Council’s 2007-8 annual social work education report, published last month, showed 23% of graduates were unemployed.

Under the Department of Health’s Requirements for Social Work Training, devised by the task group, students must complete 200 practice learning days and have “experience of statutory social work tasks involving legal interventions”.

But McKitterick said: “I do not believe any of us [on the task group] would have countenanced the situation where a significant proportion of the 200 practice learning days would be spent in agencies where a social work service, as such, is not provided and some of the assessment of practice and supervision is not undertaken by social workers.”

Quality concerns

He added that the “hunger” to have more social workers had resulted in fewer concerns about quality, and students were doing placements in settings such as daycare and supported housing.

“Local authorities do not always recognise that providing good student placements will help them recruit social workers. Social workers are busy people and students can be seen as a distraction.”

He called on the Social Work Taskforce, which is considering the profession’s training needs in England, to explore the NHS model of having dedicated teaching trusts.

Indicator removed

A performance indicator on the number of placement learning days provided by local authorities was removed last year.

The GSCC has said it is working with the government and other bodies to tackle concerns about the quality and supply of placements.

Last year, Skills for Care and the Children’s Workforce Development Council commissioned research into the quality of placements by Sheffield Hallam University.

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