Probationary year for newly qualified social workers on the cards

Pressure is mounting on the ­government to introduce a ­probationary, pre-registration year for social work graduates after two major reports published last week recommended the move.

In its interim report, the Social Work Task Force set out proposals for a probationary year. On completing their three-year degree, students would then spend a year in the workplace before fully qualifying as social workers.

The idea was backed by a report on social work training by the House of Commons’ children, schools and families select committee, and has already won the support of social work academics.

The taskforce said it was “actively considering the benefits of delaying full qualification in social work until graduates have completed (as well as their initial training) an assessed and supported year in practice”.


It added that it was looking at whether there should be constraints on the cases newly qualified social workers should be allowed to manage, or on the settings in which they can be employed.

The taskforce found that 59% of respondents to an online survey it conducted said social workers were not being properly prepared for the job by the education system (see right).

Under MPs’ plans for a ­”compulsory internship”, universities would be expected to work with employers and assess students throughout the year and registration with the General Social Care Council would be provisional until the year was completed.

However, they pointed out that councils operating under the pressure of high caseloads would struggle to accommodate new graduates on this basis, and said government would have to subsidise them.

Tie registration to specific areas

The committee added that registration should be tied to specific areas of social work, corresponding to the area of practice in which graduates had served their probationary years.

Both reports welcomed the government’s plans for all newly qualified social workers entering practice from this year to receive extra support, but said this did not go far enough.

Eleni Ioannides, vice-chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ workforce development committee, said both reports had recognised that support for the transition from “student to confident professional is not up to scratch”.

“The proposals for a ­mandatory, pre-registration ­probationary year would certainly go some way to providing ­support for this transition,” she added. “The proposals to link this year with specialisation in particular areas of social work have sufficient merit to warrant further consideration.

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