John Couglan warns of employer-university split in social work

A former president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has warned that there is a developing “dispiriting disconnection” between some social work employers and degree course providers.

John Coughlan, director of children’s services at Hampshire Council, told a Community Care and Children’s Workforce Development Council conference last week that he was “deeply worried” about what he described as a stand-off between education providers and employers.

He said employers complained that a significant number of graduates were not prepared for the “hurly burly” of social work, while academics believed there were insufficient local authority placements and that new social workers were left unsupported when they began work.

Coughlan told the conference on child protection there was “mutual fault”. He said employers could not “whinge from the sidelines” about the quality of new social workers if they were not prepared to work with education providers to ensure the content of courses was relevant or provide sufficient practice placements.

He said education providers must make more effort to work with councils as well.

Concerns about the quality of placements and some degree courses are currently being looked into by the General Social Care Council. The children and families select committee is also looking into training of children’s social workers, while it is also a key issue for the Social Work Task Force.

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