New qualification for social work support staff to be piloted in Wales

Higher education certificate for support workers expected to improve career pathways and professional status as well as knowledge and skills

Social work support staff in Wales will start piloting a new higher education qualification from October, it has been announced.

Support workers in children and adult’s services were nominated by the councils they work for to take part in trialling the two year part-time programme. It will cover the foundations of social work practice for staff involved in assessment, planning, delivering and reviewing services or giving advice about access.

The programme was developed by local authorities, the Care Council for Wales and the Open University (OU), who will deliver it. The curriculum includes psychology, social contexts and professional values as well as approaches, models and issues when working with different groups of service users.

Each of the 22 councils in Wales was given two funded places on the pilot by the Care Council; over 140 other practitioners have been funded by their employer or signed up themselves.

Impetus for the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice came from the Social Services and Wellbeing Wales Act (2014) which set out that all those involved in assessments must have the necessary knowledge, skills and competence.

Judith Davies, head of social work (Wales) at the OU said service users and carers will “undoubtedly” benefit from staff putting what they learn on the course into practice and highlighted that this award was unique in the UK. “It is particularly exciting that the Social Services and Wellbeing Act recognises and values the important and complex role carried out by workers in social services practitioner-type roles,” Davies said.

The Care Council expects to evaluate the impact of the programme after one year. Workforce development manager for the Care Council, Jack Drysdale, said that as well as the quality of practice, the certificate would improve the professional identity and recognition of staff in support roles:

“[It will] provide career opportunities, acknowledgement and a professional status for many workers who found accessing education and learning while they worked difficult.”

The certificate is a level 4 qualification, equivalent to a BTEC or NVQ. Achieving the award also means practitioners who want to become qualified social workers will have the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate social work degree.

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4 Responses to New qualification for social work support staff to be piloted in Wales

  1. Jim Greer October 3, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    Teesside University have been providing a similar qualification in the north east for the past 3 years. It was intially commissioned by Durham County Council for their staff and has been extended to take in staff from other local authorities. The programme has been extremely successful. The staff bring in a lot of real world experience which makes for a stimulating learning environment. Staff who complete the Programme can then apply for our three year BA Programme to go in straight to second year level.

    • wendy October 4, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

      Can you provide details of the course please Jim Thanks

  2. Alyson Williams October 7, 2016 at 7:25 am #

    So needed well done to all who have created this…hopefully it will go some way to raising the way in which we value the people we care for and raise standards of care.

  3. Mick McCormick October 7, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    Thanks Alyson – great work by our OU colleagues in Wales. A significant contribution to raising standards in social care and a real starting point for the social care workforce into a qualifying career in social work. The Open University offers similar qualifications across the UK – a Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) in Social Care mapped against relevant national standards at entry level:

    Best wishes