The Department for Education has been unable to deny claims that the Social Work Education Support Grant will be slashed by almost 20% next year.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) alleged earlier this week that ministers plan to slash the grant, which helps employers and universities meet the costs of student placements, from the £28m paid out in 2011-12 to £23m in 2012-13.
A spokesperson for the DfE said the budget for 2012-13 had not yet been set, but BASW said the proposals had been outlined privately to the association.
At existing rates, employers in non-statutory settings receive £28 per student, those in statutory settings receive £18 and higher education institutions (HEIs) receive £2.
HEIs also receive funding for the involvement of service users and carers in the development and delivery of social work courses.
BASW’s chief executive, Hilton Dawson, said: “More vulnerable children, families and adults need social work support than ever in the current economic climate, and social work is a profession already desperate for more investment in skills and training.
“[Professor Eileen] Munro outlined important changes needed to improve child protection practice, in particular, yet such funding cuts will have exactly the opposite effect and introduce more risks to practice.”
Responding to BASW’s claims, the DfE’s spokesperson said: “The budget for the Education Support Grant is £28m in the 2011-12 financial year. Budgets for 2012-13 have not yet been set. However, the GSCC has signed contracts for the grant for the academic year 2011 at the existing rates.”
The College of Social Work is due to take over responsibility for administering the grant from the General Social Care Council next year.
The Department of Health has asked the College to carry out a consultation about the future of the grant. Any changes to the way in which it is calculated and administered will not come into effect until 2013-14 at the earliest.
A guide to funding for social work students