Words by Rachel Schraer
On average one in 10 local authority social workers across the UK is newly qualified, according to the latest research by Community Care. Here, Jill Manthorpe, director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, gives her top tips for supporting and making the most of staff who are new to the job.
1. Remember how it was for you when you started. Having a formal structure in place to help people settle in is valuable.
2. Saying your door is always open is not a replacement for making specific time to see a newly qualified social worker (NQSW). Make sure you put aside appointed times for troubleshooting and evaluation.
3. Don’t write off NQSWs who did not do their placement in your office or local authority. They may not know where the coffee cups are, but they will bring in fresh ideas.
4. Find out what your NQSW wants to do. They are likely to be able to write their own educational/ skills prescription.
5. Newly qualified does not necessarily mean inexperienced. Find out what they’ve done before and make sure you match people to an appropriate level of casework according to their knowledge and experience.
6. Don’t let your NQSW’s unique skills rust. Find out what they can bring to the team and use it. They are likely to have some experience, skills and talents that others don’t.
7. Don’t have “cliff edges”. Try to avoid a situation where someone is seen as newly qualified one day and experienced the next; recognize the transitory state that NQSWs are in in their first year in employment.
8. Properly implement and use any formal schemes available to support NQSWs, such as the first year in practice in Wales and assessed and supported year in employment in England. Recognise that a formal scheme already exists for NQSWs that can guide you in best supporting your newly qualified staff.
9. Appreciate that your staff are your greatest asset. But this is mitigated by the challenging circumstance they work in; training and support are vital.
10. Remember that the people giving support need to be supported themselves. NQSW coordinators need support from their own supervisors, too; it should be seen as part of their professional development.