The chair of the Social Work Reform Board has called on England’s skills councils to create a single, unified programme to support newly qualified practitioners across children’s and adults’ social work.
Moira Gibb said the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s scheme for children’s practitioners and the equivalent one for adults’ services, run by Skills for Care, should be streamlined under a single framework.
Both programmes offer guaranteed supervision and protected caseloads for the first year of practice but are assessed differently.
They were rolled out nationally for the first time in 2009-10 and now support 3,000 practitioners in children’s services and 1,000 in adults’.
Gibb told MPs on the Children, Schools and Families Committee last week: “The CWDC, Skills for Care and others should try to collaborate more around social work so there is only one newly qualified social work programme, as it were, rather than one for adults’ and one for children’s servicesthat will give leadership.”
Gibb’s call was backed by one leading social work educator but others emphasised the importance of specialist training linked to client groups.
The existing programmes should be brought together because they are “both saying the same thing in slightly different words”, said Keith Brown, director of the Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work at Bournemouth University.
The government is committed to introducing a compulsory assessed year in employment for all social work graduates from 2016. An implementation plan for the Social Work Reform Programme, published last month, said the assessed year would build on the existing schemes, which would continue until it was introduced.
Brown said it would be “much easier” to develop the assessed year if the CWDC and Skills for Care programmes were unified.
He added: “The advantages would be that you’re running one scheme in one organisation, it streamlines the system bringing economies of scale and it’s easier for people to understand.”
But Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said it was important that training schemes emphasised the “core professional responsibilities shared across adults’ and children’s social work”.
He added: “But in addition to all of that there should be specialist training relating to children and adults that only they will receive.”
A third-year social work student at Coventry University, Elizabeth Burns, supported retaining the separate support programmes.
“I’m seeking a job in child protection and I want to be an expert in my field, so it makes sense that the children’s support scheme is run by the CWDC,” she said. “Universities give you a broader picture of children, adults and communities.
“To be able to make teaching effective post qualification it should be relevant to the field of work that has been chosen.”
Andrea Rowe, chief executive of Skills for Care, said the two programmes started at different times “but we are bringing them closer together”.