Social work Task Force: Career progression and development

PROBLEM: Provision of post-qualifying training is undermined by a lack of funding, the capacity of employers and practitioners, and a lack of incentives to take up training.

RECOMMENDATION: Create a more coherent and effective national framework for continuing professional development, underpinned by a practice-based masters qualification, to keep the skills and specialist knowledge of all social workers up to date as their career progresses.

The taskforce concluded that the social work education system does not effectively support ongoing development and specialisation, after hearing that low take-up resulted from low capacity among employers to release practitioners for study time, and a lack of national recognition for post-qualifying awards.

For example, the current framework for post-qualifying training in England, introduced by the General Social Care Council on a voluntary basis, attracted just 2,800 enrolments in 2007-8.

The taskforce also heard ­evidence that the framework failed to meet social workers’ needs for specialisation in particular fields, and suffered from a lack of funding and poor co-ordination at a national level.

The children and families select committee report into children’s social work training was told by the Children’s Workforce Development Council that “responsibility for funding, quality assurance and inspection of current post-qualifying arrangements is so widely spread as to compromise its effectiveness”.

The GSCC called for post-qualifying training to be made compulsory and linked to re-registration. The regulator’s chair, Rosie Varley, said high-quality ongoing training would strengthen practice and benefit service users.

Varley also urged managers to ensure social workers receive proper supervision to ensure the professional development of staff: “We know from our conduct cases that employers do not always provide adequate supervision and trainingWe would like to explore how we can strengthen the status of this so that employers who fail to provide adequate training can be sanctioned.”

Keith Brumfitt, director of strategy at the CWDC, and children’s secretary Ed Balls have declared that social work should become a masters-level profession to boost its quality.

Speaking at Community Care Live last month, taskforce chair Moira Gibb told delegates that a stronger knowledge base was needed. “Social work has not developed well enough, in terms of having a strong research base and being involved in ongoing research,” she said.

The “revamped” career development framework promised in the final report of the taskforce, coupled with the introduction of a practice-based masters qualification, will go some way towards bringing social work into line with the culture of continuous learning found in other professions such as law and medicine.

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