Number of social work education programmes in England fell last year, with work-based learning hardest hit

There has been a reduction in both undergraduate and postgraduate provision, according to a report by the Health and Care Professions Council

The number of training and education programmes available to budding social workers in England dropped by 12% in 2012-13, research by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has revealed.

Of the 282 programmes transferred to the HCPC from the General Social Care Council (GSCC) when it closed in August 2012, only 249 went on to be transitionally approved.

While a handful of records were changed or merged to reflect the HCPC’s recording system, it emerged that six programmes had never recruited students following their initial approval by the GSCC.

Thirteen programmes were closed prior to the transfer, 26 had their last intake of students before the transfer and 19 informed the HCPC that they had their last intake in the academic year 2012-13.

In total, 26 education providers have closed programmes. Of those, three stopped running their social work provision entirely.

“It is clear that there has been a reduction in both undergraduate and postgraduate provision,” the HCPC said.

The report also showed that a higher proportion of work-based learning programmes has closed compared to full or part-time programmes (40% compared to 14% and 9% respectively).

More closures expected

The data was produced as part of the HCPC’s review of its approval visits to social work pre-registration education and training programmes in the 2012-13 academic year.

The HCPC has transitionally approved all programmes and is now visiting each one individually to assess whether it meets the HCPC’s standards of education and training.

All 72 programmes visited so far have successfully completed the full approval process.

However, they all had to implement changes to their programmes in order to do so.

A further 158 programmes will be visited in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The HCPC said it expects more providers will announce programme closures in that time.

Programmes fully approved by the HCPC are longer eligible to refer students to the student suitability scheme, which was put in place to protect the public during this three-year period of transition.

Between 1 August 2012 and 31 May 2013, 16 cases concerning student social workers were received by the HCPC.

None were deemed serious enough to warrant including the student on the suitability scheme’s prohibited list.

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