How dual-qualified social workers may hold the key to true integration

Social workers qualified in nursing or other professions are being asked to share their knowledge and experiences as part of research into integration

Photo: Momius/Fotolia

By Di Galpin

The integration of health and social care has been a key objective for successive governments in the UK. Whilst some focus on the role of merging of budgets to promote closer integration between the two sectors, higher education institutions (HEIs) are increasingly turning their attention to the content of courses they provide to individuals who make up the workforce.  A number of HEIs have developed, and deliver, joint integrated degree programmes, which combine both nursing and social work education.  These usually focus on learning disability or mental health nursing and social work.

The extension of an integrated approach to learning is being developed by the Health and Care Professions Council, who are currently reviewing the standards of education and training (SETs) for the health and social care professions it regulates. One area of change being proposed relates to inter-professional education and the introduction of a requirement in the standards for learners to have the opportunity to learn from, and with, learners and professionals in other relevant professions.

However, whilst new approaches to integrated learning in health and social care has the potential to be a positive step forward, is it really enough to achieve authentic integrated practice on the frontline?

Research gaps

There is some research on those who have undertaken a joint educational pathway, as mentioned above, however, limited research exists on the experiences of ‘dual-qualified‘ social workers, ie those who hold both a social work qualification and an allied professional qualification such as nursing, teaching or counselling for example. Little is known of their influence on promoting an integrated approach to service delivery, at a cultural and strategic level within organisational settings.

The social work team at Plymouth University are currently working with Livewell Southwest, an independent social enterprise and community interest company (CIC) providing integrated health and social care services, to explore the experiences of dual-qualified social workers in the workplace.

We believe the knowledge, skills and experiences of these workers is vital to understanding the support they need to contribute to delivering authentic integrated services.  We want to hear from dual-qualified social workers so that we can take an informed approach to developing an educational approach that both supports their professional development, post qualification, and which also informs employers on how best to maximise their potential to deliver genuine integration in service provision.

If you hold both a social work qualification and an allied professional qualification, the team would like to hear from you. There is a short online questionnaire you can complete, which asks about the qualifications you hold, why you changed professions and your experience of being dual-qualified in your current role, and what support might enhance your professional development.

If you would like to be involved you can contact Di Galpin and the project team at

Di Galpin is academic lead for social work at Plymouth University 

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14 Responses to How dual-qualified social workers may hold the key to true integration

  1. Dr. L Eugene Vaughn October 7, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    This sounds terrific! I have degrees in Secondary Education, Master of Social Work, and Doctorate in Ministry (D.Min). I think the theory is one which would offer students an excellent opportunity to become more efficient and effective as “change agents” who impact the community in which they work and live.

    This concept is similar to my current teaching methodology. I am a professor in Urban Ministry at a Bible College And Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. I would like to know more about this educational project. Blessings! Dr.V

  2. Andrew Reece October 7, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    As I understand it the joint CLDN/ DipSW course at South Bank folded because no employers created joint posts even in integrated teams. No joined up thinking!

  3. Helen Jocelyn October 8, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    I have been waiting for years to be asked this. I qualified as a Mental Heath Nurse in 1987 and as a Social Worker in 1999. I even had a dual qualifying Student in 2004, and delighted to be supporting her with injection technique as well as Social Work interventions. Dual Practitioners are long overdue.

  4. andiswa October 8, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    I have a diploma in Pharmacy Assistant and also registered as such with the council, I worked at a dispensary in hospital for a period of 5 years. I then studied Social Work part time and now I am a qualified Social Workwr. I work for a community based Organisation.
    This came handy in a Child Na youth Care Centre where I used to work because they kept medication and I was of great help when it came to medication and the policies concerning that field while I continued with my duties as a soçial worker.

  5. Jim Greer October 10, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    At Teesside we had a joint Mental Health Social Work and Nursing degree. All of the graduates ended up working as either social workers or nurses with most going in to social work because it offered better pay and conditions. There were few jobs, as far as I know which allowed people to continue being jointly registered. It was an excellent qualification but one has to question in the present climate, devoting placement resources from two professions to turn out graduates who will specialise in one profession only.
    From my own experience in community mental health services I think the main obstacle to integration is organisational. As long as people work for organisations with different cultures, recording systems and budgets, genuine integrated working is very difficult.

  6. Ansu October 11, 2016 at 5:15 am #

    I hold an MBA from Westminster Business School and Master of Social Work from Goldsmiths. Research should explore how business models could enhance social work practice. Think about applying lean systems and managing business operations to child protection. I am in for it. Now you’ve started talking!!

  7. D.Z. Caetano October 11, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    The University of South Wales has been running Social Work degrees that include joint sessions/lectures with people from health for the last 6 years. The concept works well and lends itself to effective sharing of ideas and concepts. As a graduate of this course I highly recommend it!

  8. Paula Keating October 12, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    At Edge Hill University we have recently validated a 4 year integrated masters in nursing and social work encompassing the four fields of nursing (ie. Learning disabilities, mental health, children’s nursing, adult nursing). We have had a lot of interest from prospective students and employers.
    We have had a BSc programme for 5 years for social work/learning disabilities nursing or children’s nursing and a growing number of our students are being employed in integrated roles however there are still a lot of challenges for these practitioners.

  9. Chris October 12, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    Great idea. However, local authority and NHS have worked and trained together for decades in integrated teams. The only thing that prevents true integration is that people are assessed for payment for social care at point of use but not NHS care. The politicians on all sides have dodged this issue. They can’t cope either with people being financially assessed by NHS staff or the implications of free social care delivered overwhelmingly by private commercial cimpanies. So no true integration. This is an issue that is rarely raised by journalists, unions or politicians but is at the heart of so many inefficiencies of our health and social care system. It is the most political of issues and the politicians have not had the courage to address it.

  10. Yvonne Bonifas October 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    I think the current sw qualification as far as adult services are concerned is a dead duck. Some kind of new qualification with elements from IT and social work would be far more useful.

  11. Yvonne Bonifas October 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    I meant OT.

  12. Graham October 13, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    I think joint qualifications and cross discipline learning are always valuable but what always stood out about social work was the value attached to life experience, which is why, certainly when I trained 30 years ago, there were few social work student younger than their mid to late twenties.
    My previous experience of milking cows, driving a lorry, working in a factory and welding have proved invaluable to my social work practice ever since – not in a practical sense of course but giving me an insight into the lives of many of the people I work with. The security of my social work practice comes mainly, not from my academic qualifications, but from my life experience.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all anti-academic; I have tutored social work students who were barely literate and that can be a big problem given the complexity of the written and legal side of the work. But I have also come across young, well qualified social workers who struggled to cope with the experiences of the people with whom they were working

  13. Pauline October 13, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    I did a degree in social sciences and nursing studies at Edinburgh, finishing in 1980 with a BSc in nursing studies and a RGN and district nurse qualification. As part of this I studied social administration for 3 years, even writing a dissertation on independent fostering! I then trained as a midwife qualifying in 1982. After 3 children I went back to bank nursing and part time midwifery for 7 years. Then I got a job as a social work support assistant part time for 8 years, then did my MA in social work and got a Dip SW and have worked full time as a child care social worker for 13 years. I have found the nursing and midwifery helpful in my social work practice as I understand the terminology and the child development was helpful. I would be happy to be involved in this research.

  14. Aijay October 24, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    The idea of integration sounds splendid. It affords both professionals to adequately carry out their roles effectively and efficiently. I’m not against the program but I’ve got two thoughts on my mind which maybe someone else can elaborate on.

    1. Could it be that SW is the bait but the end journey is actually nursing considering the fact that most students opt for SW rather than nursing?
    2. I think it’s an opportunity for the government as well as employers to kill 2 birds with one stone in terms of the pay and packaging? Rather than pay two different salary packages to two individuals, by virtue of this scheme, only one salary package is paid. Hence, money is saved.

    I intend to study SW but with the integration, I’m having a rethink on whether to pursue my original plan or switch to the dual qualification.