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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Di Galpin is academic lead for social work at Plymouth University