National assessment for newly qualified social workers in adult services planned

Chief social worker for adults puts plans out to consultation as part of 'knowledge and skills statement' for social workers in adults services

Lyn Romeo
Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults

Lyn Romeo, the chief social worker for adults, has set out proposals for a standardised national assessment that all newly qualified social workers working in adult services should undergo at the end of their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE).

The plans are included in Romeo’s ‘knowledge and skills statement for social workers in adult services’ that was put out to consultation today. The national framework would see all social workers in adult services face a three-part assessment of their practice at the end of their first year in post. The three parts are:

  • Four formal direct observations of practice from a registered social worker;
  • The examination of two written pieces demonstrating the social worker’s ability to reflect on and learn from practice;
  • Examination of at least three examples of written records, including case notes, supervision records and a report written for an external process such as a mental health tribunal or best interests assessment.

Development of the standardised assessments would be led by Skills for Care and a system for validating the system externally led by The College of Social Work, Romeo’s report says. The aim is to improve the system of quality assurance so that the social work profession “can have confidence that employers’ judgements [on NQSW standards] are consistent across the country”, it adds.

A Department of Health-commissioned review of social work education published in February this year recommended introducing a standard assessment criteria for social workers at the end of the ASYE. The review, by Professor David Croisdale-Appleby, also recommended that this assessment framework should be independently validated.

Both the Croisdale-Appleby review and the ASYE cover social workers in adults and children’s services. The Department of Health said that Romeo’s knowledge and skills statement – which included the ASYE proposals – was developed specifically for social workers in adult settings. However, the DH added that Romeo’s report would inform future developments of the ASYE alongside the knowledge and skills statement on children’s social work that was produced by Isabelle Trowler, the chief social worker for children’s services.

In response to Romeo’s statement, Croisdale-Appleby said he was “pleased that, following my review, action is being taken to improve practice and quality assure social workers’ capabilities in working with adults and their families and carers.”

Romeo’s knowledge and skills statement also sets out a ‘level of capability’ social workers in an adult setting should have at the end of their first year. This states that social workers should have ‘consistently demonstrated proficiency in a wide range of tasks and roles’ including person-centred assessments, confidence in working in multidisciplinary settings and being able to understand legal frameworks in adult settings, in particular the Mental Capacity Act, Mental Health Act and Care Act.

Launching the document, Romeo said: “Social workers play a vital role in improving people’s lives, so it’s really important that we equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to do their job. This statement sets out what we expect of newly qualified social workers working in adult social care and makes it clear what support and arrangements employers need to provide to get them up to this standard.

“This will help raise the bar for social work and put excellent practice at the heart of adult social care.”

Jo Cleary, chair of The College of Social Work, said Romeo’s statement was welcome and showed that social workers had a “pivotal role” to play in implementing the Care Act and upholding the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and Mental Health Act.

“But we want to emphasise the vital importance of government identifying the common ‘core’ of knowledge and skills needed by all social workers, and of therefore linking this draft statement to the one on which the Department for Education has recently consulted on with respect to children and family social workers,” Cleary added.

“The College looks forward to providing a response to this important document after consulting with our members.  We would hope to play a lead role in delivering a more consistent approach to the validation of ASYE which will support better practice and help equip social workers to undertake their complex and challenging work.”

The consultation on the ‘knowledge and skills statement for social workers in adult services’ is open until Friday 12 December.

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5 Responses to National assessment for newly qualified social workers in adult services planned

  1. Margaret Tyson October 11, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    The 3 standards appear to be a good idea but number 1 depends upon the registered social worker being good at his/her job and the other 2 again need value judgements to be made. My experience was that there was bad/wrong judgements made by a registered social worker and notes and records kept were not up to standard by her and most SWs. I had to ask for a minute taker at meetings which up to that point did not have minute takers – it meant that many records depended upon memory especailly of meetings. There was a complete lack of evidence in decisions made by adult services.

  2. j b October 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    I can’t see the difference between this and current asye requirements? !

    • Andy McNicoll October 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

      Hey Jen,

      Andy from Community Care here. I believe that the proposals from the chief social worker are an attempt to bring more ‘quality assurance’ and a ‘national framework’ to bring more consistency to how ASYE social workers are assessed by different employers. It seems to tap in to this recommendation in the Croisdale Appleby review of social work education that assessment of ASYE needs to be more ‘rigorous’:

      ‘In its present form the ASYE is a process valued by newly qualified social workers and their employers, and I would support
      making its assessment more rigorous and it becoming a generally recognised quality assurance endorsement by and for employers in making their recruitment and retention decisions.’

      It may be that your employer already does a very similar assessment process to that described here but it sounds like it varies from employer to employer. The national assessment framework, it seems, would be an attempt to cut down on the variability.

    • Pete October 14, 2014 at 7:47 am #

      There is already a huge amount of paper work (relevant may I add) for the ASYE. Maybe it would be better spending time training ASYE assessor’s more consistently then introducing yet more observation and assessment on top of Social Workers who are already getting to grips with practice? I don’t see anything wrong with what is currently in place.

      Personally I find this report frustrating. I can understand consultation and development where it matters, but it seems to sometimes ironically become a pattern of poor practice when these consultations are carried out and recommendations are made that end up being to the detriment of social work. No doubt, give it five more years and the ASYE name will be dropped and rebranded.

      I hope the Newly Qualified Social Workers, those who have been through the ASYE year and their assessors are included and intricate in the planning of this assessment.

  3. Sarah Knapp October 14, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I have worked alongside LA’s to implement ASYE programmes and I recently evaluated a Step Up programme for a LA partnership and it is clear that people, especially trainers, assessors and tutors, need to have their knowledge assessed so that their learning can be focussed on their identified gaps to support them to be fit for practice.

    Whilst managing Social Work programmes for a LA as L&D Manager, I created an online assessment tool with a competence evidence portfolio to do this using the Common Induction Standards and QCF units as a framework. When I have used this tool with qualified to check Social Workers and NQSW’s knowledge, it has clearly shown that they do not consistently possess even the basic entry level knowledge required of frontline care workers and this is deeply concerning.

    This assessment tool is now freely available to staff at all levels through LA funding agreements and in some LA’s it is written into policies and procedures to include ASYE procedures. When used properly, it is robust and it works but it is not always applied consistently or managed appropriately from the top downwards.

    Assessment tools stop people from wasting time and money on unnecessary training and ensures people possess the right knowledge and skills for their job role. This is standard practice in other sectors. Knowledge assessment is critical as is the managers responsibility to ensure this is embedded into practice.