A leading academic is seeking to allay social work students’ fears over changes to training proposed in the social work taskforce report.
Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said the current crop of students, who will graduate before the reforms are implemented, may not be “quite as well off as future students, but they will be no worse off than their predecessors.
“What’s more, they will still have all the benefits of employers providing manageable caseloads and appropriate supervision, and being part of a higher-status profession.”
The taskforce has recommended that universities recruit “high-calibre” candidates to courses as well as an overhaul of the content and delivery of all social work degree courses.
Jones admitted that, although this would make it more difficult for students to be accepted on to social work programmes, it had benefits. “Social work needs people who can collate disparate information and critically appraise it to make judgements,” he said.
He pointed out there would be other routes for those who missed out on social work programmes, such as the foundation degree in social care and degrees in social pedagogy.
The taskforce has also introduced the concept of a “probationary year” for graduating social workers. It will be an assessed and supported year of practice to be completed before a licence to practise is granted.
In another recommendation employers and educators should work together to ensure that all students are provided with high-quality practice placements that are properly supervised and assessed.
The General Social Care Council (GSCC) will also take on a greater role in regulating social work education to ensure greater consistency and quality of courses.
Jackie Rafferty, of the Higher Education Social Policy and Social Work Subject Centre, welcomed the strengthening of partnerships between higher education and employers, and the probationary year for graudates, which she said should lead to “increased student and employer confidence.”
However, both Jones and Rafferty said the successful implementation of all the recommendations would depend on enough government funding.