Taskforce wants a probationary year for social work graduates

Social work graduates in England will be required to complete a probationary year of supervised practice before being allowed to register, under recommendations due to be included in the final report of the Social Work Task Force.

Speaking at Community Care LIVE yesterday, taskforce chair Moira Gibb confirmed that proposals for a probationary year set out in the taskforce’s interim report, would appear in the final report published early next month.

“We will be recommending that the time to qualify as a social worker increases, from three years to four years, with a year spent in supervised practice,” Gibb said. Under the proposals, students would spend a year in the workplace on completion of their three-year degree before they would be eligible to register with the General Social Care Council (GSCC).

The news will be welcomed by the Association of Professors of Social Work, who set out their recommendations for a probationary year to the taskforce in April.

Gibb told delegates that while the taskforce would not be recommending any “radical overhaul” of the social work degree, the taskforce was concerned that there was “too much pressure not to fail students”. A mandatory year of supervised, assessed practice would make graduates feel “better trained, qualified and supported” and more adept to work in a variety of environments, Gibb said, which in turn would drive higher standards.

“It is astonishing that we put our least qualified and newest social workers into the hardest and most challenging situations. No other profession would advocate doing that,” Gibb said.

The interim report, issued by the taskforce in July, said the lack of readiness for the demands of frontline practice among newly qualified staff was “causing particular concern”.

“The evidence strongly suggests that completion of a degree course should not be treated as, in effect, a full preparation for practice by employers understandably anxious to fill vacancies,” the report said. It named “high quality, appropriate initial training” as one of its nine building blocks for reform.

GSCC welcome for proposal

Chair of the GSCC, Rosie Varley, told Community Care after the session that Gibb was “absolutely right” to recommend a probationary year of supervised practice for graduates. “That will bring us in line with other professions,” Varley said.

“There’s a clear consensus of views about the need to strengthen social work education and introduce a national curriculum,” she added, “and to move away from the view that the degree will equip people with the skills necessary for your career, towards a concept of continuous professional development with specialist qualifications linked to specialist practice and linked to the register.”

The taskforce is a group of experts commissioned by the government to outline a comprehensive programme of reform for the social work profession in England, It is due to make its final report next month.

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External information

Social Work Task Force

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