Scheme for newly qualified social workers deemed a success

Social workers starting off their careers in children's services are receiving better supervision and support than they were three years ago, a university study has revealed.

The controversial programme of support for newly qualified children’s social workers (NQSWs) has improved dramatically over the past couple of years, according to a final evaluation of the scheme.

NQSWs are more committed and management support has markedly improved since the programme was introduced in 2008, the report by researchers at Bristol, Salford and King’s College London universities found.

The NQSW programme was launched by the now-closed Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) to ensure social work graduates received consistent, high quality supervision. It was hoped this would improve retention rates in the sector.

However, it was slammed in its first-year evaluation, with many NQSWs claiming employers were failing to deliver on promises of extra supervision and reduced caseloads.

The final evaluation suggests, however, that many of the scheme’s initial problems have been ironed out. According to the researchers, the proportion of social workers satisfied with the programme rose sharply from 59% in 2008-9 to 73% in 2010-11.

Similarly, the proportion of NQSWs who reported having received their full entitlement of supervision increased from just over half in 2008-9 to over three quarters in 2010-11.

The authors noted that retention rates for NQSWs in local authorities increased from 85% in 2008-9 to 91.5% in 2010-11. It is also thought that the programme has had a positive impact on stress levels.

However, they did warn that employers were still finding it difficult to protect NQSW caseloads: “Managing NQSW’s workloads, in particular to achieve the expected 90% reduction in relation to experienced workers in the teams as well as attending to the complexity of cases, was problematic.”

The CWDC’s NQSW programme and its counterpart in adult services will be superseded by an assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) from September. It was recently announced that employers in England will receive £2,000 in government funding for every social worker taking part.

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