Councils to submit proposals for social work apprenticeship scheme

In partnership with Skills for Care, social work employers are consulting on plans as part of an integrated degree apprenticeship scheme for social workers

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A group of local authorities in England is to apply to the government to approve the first social worker integrated degree apprenticeship scheme, which could offer a route into the profession for experienced care staff who don’t have an academic background.

Supported by Skills for Care, the group is consulting on an apprenticeship standard for social workers, which outlines the practice knowledge and skills required of those qualifying through the route.

The group hopes to submit a final version to the Institute for Apprenticeships by 28 June, and get a decision from government on whether it can go ahead with the scheme by December.

Development is in its early stages, but the draft standards say the integrated degree apprenticeship would be expected to last 36 months.


The trainee social workers would be paid from day one, and undergo a mixture of on- and off-the-job training. At least 20% of an apprenticeship should be off-the-job training, but what this is and how it is completed would be decided by the local authority and its learning provider.

Learning providers would likely be universities, and can work with local authorities on apprenticeships as long as they have a degree signed off by the HCPC and are on both the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers and Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations.

After an assessment at the end of the apprenticeship, trainees would gain a university degree and attain the same professional status as social workers who qualify through other routes.

The placements would be funded by the new apprenticeship levy, which is set at 0.5% of the pay bill of organisations with a total pay bill of more than £3m, to fund apprenticeship placements. For every £1 of levy paid, the government will top up by 10p. Most local authorities are expected to pay a levy contribution.

Employers would decide the rate apprentices would be paid, but they would be required by government to pay at least the minimum wage rate.


Peter Barron, project manager for standards learning qualifications and apprenticeships at Skills for Care, who is supporting the development of the apprenticeship scheme, said local authorities involved in developing the standard were “estimating four or five starts each per year, but this is very much a rough estimate”.

Barron said the group developing the scheme consists of “volunteers from all over the country”. Mostly employed by local authorities, they are from a mixture of children’s and adults’ services backgrounds, and include principal social workers and learning and development managers.

“Local authorities are massively excited about this as they see it as an efficient way of using their levy payments and a way of moving forward the careers of internal staff working in care who have the right values and experience to be a social worker but not necessarily the academic background,” Barron said.

Entry requirements, and how apprentices meet the 20% ‘off-the-job’ learning requirement, would be agreed by employers and learning providers individually, but would need to comply with the generic principles of all apprenticeships, Barron said.

“Compared to placements, an apprentice is a paid employee from day one with no student loan and gaining practical experience every day,” Barron said.

The consultation closes on 2 June.

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13 Responses to Councils to submit proposals for social work apprenticeship scheme

  1. Terry Unicorn May 30, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    Sounds like cheap labour to me and I can imagine successful applicants being looked down upon from established workers. PCSO’s, orderlies and teaching assistants spring to mind.

  2. Hortense May 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

    Sounds just like the training we had in the 60s and 80s the CQSW. Not a new idea and it wasn’t helpful when they changed all social work training to a degree course. It left out people with lots of experience but who hadn’t had the chance to get qualifications.

  3. Dominique May 31, 2017 at 6:51 am #

    I cannot help but feel that a little frustrated by this, I will have acquired a massive debt to gain my degree in Social Work. Now this potential entry route could possibly effect how many placements are available within local authorities & employment opportunities.

    • Petra May 31, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Totally agree it will also cause a lot of extra stress on teams supporting apprentices.

  4. Joe Z Mairura May 31, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    This is a very bad idea

    It’s yet another distraction.One that the beleaguered social work profession can do without just now; when the profession’s identity, credibility and authority is at the lowest.

    In the absence of a professional body for our profession, generalist social care organisations are stepping in to fill the gap. My advice to Skills for Care is “please focus on the wider social care issues and NOT social work.

    This scheme does not auger well for the social work as a profession. Remember “Care Management” or is our memory that shot term

    it is not right that employers (LA’s) are now muscling in to determine yet another entry for the training of our profession.

    This is not their place.

    Of course LAs would be excited about this because it a way of resolving staff recruitment and retention problems; but it does nothing in enhancing the professional status of social work. It detracts from it

    This is yet evidence of the fact that that in the absence of an independent professional social work body every man woman and their dog thinks and feels entitled to meddle in the future status of the SW profession and hence are coming up with all manner of ‘potty’ schemes
    about SW training, accreditation and professional direction.

    Why are the propagators of this ‘insane’ scheme deem it necessary to seek government permission to put in place this scheme?.

    I’ll give you the answer to that for free.

    Its because we have no INDEPENDENT social work professional body (NOT Association) to ask or consult with. Because if there was going to be anyone to ask, it would have been our SW Professional body. But unless we have been hiding in some cave, we haven’t got one!

    The government has meddled enough in the affairs of our profession; yet we’re so short sighted that we re providing more ammunition for further denigration of our profession.

    That’s the sad state of affairs -the indictment our profession finds itself in. It ain’t rocket science people.

    Please drop this insane scheme and concentrate on defending, protecting, re-building and advocating for and re-claiming SW as an independent self-determining profession.

    Social work needs it’s leadership – its professional leadership in particular- now more than ever before. Do not standby and watch our profession be condemned to oblivion.

    You know what’s right and necessary to do, in order rebuild and give back this profession its rightful identity and equal status alongside our partner professions. do not be distracted by short term and self interest opportunistic schemes.

    Now more than ever, you our social work leaders, and I include social work academics in this, need to stand up and be counted.

    This is your time to lead with courage and integrity. Do that and its my sincere believe that social workers up and down this nation will ‘have your backs’

    And to all of us social workers, I ask you to look yourself in the mirror and with stone called honesty, ask yourself this question:

    “How am I showing up in ensuring the survival of my profession”

    This is my heartfelt plea to us all.


    I’m happy for anyone so inclined to contact me directly, if you wish to clarify anything I have said. All I ask is that, you are courteous, respectful and professional.

    I give community care my permission to give you my email address if that’s you.

  5. MarieLee May 31, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

    It appears I’m in unnecessary debt.

  6. Hilton Dawson June 1, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    It sounds more like the old CSS.
    A very good idea – helping people with experience develop further skills, improve qualifications & potentially retention in a sustainable way.
    Good value for money, better value for people.

  7. Hilary Searing June 1, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    The apprenticeship model is an excellent one for social work training. I know that my own understanding of the professional role only really happened on the job. I learned so much from the people who let me into their troubled lives and my colleagues who became mentors and friends. Not everyone aspires to leadership positions and I think more should be done to encourage social workers who find satisfaction in front line practice and want to stay there.

  8. Lilly June 1, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    So many wanting to go forwards to obtain a degree and not having the means or the opportunity due to there own individual circumstances and now there may be a chance.
    The ever changing opportunities helps those who can and now those who can’t, sounds fantastic.

  9. Carly June 2, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    People commented on wasting their time and being in debt. .. for many years there have been some opportunities to get your training costs covered.

    Some LA’s have continued to fund the training for some of their staff..

    With this apprenticeship Only a few places will be availabe from those LA’s who decide to do it. I would suspect competition will ge stiff

    Its a great opportunity for existing staff

  10. Ruksana Chowdhory June 2, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Please do not underestimate the value of a degree. We as a profession are required to have a theoretical knowledge base as well as gain practical skills to do the complex work that is required of us. We need to hold on to our degrees if we are to be respected like doctors, nurses and psychologists and if we are to undertake complex assessments and direct work. Removing the need for academic learning will not only denigrate our profession more it will also deskill us. No other well respected profession is subject to such mockery and abuse by the government, employers and private institutions.

  11. Sue June 8, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    I work as a non qualified with LA and have done so for nearly 10 years with various care experience prior to that. I have never been a particularly academic person but like to think that I do a good job regardless of the lack of qualification.
    The LA I work for decided around 4 years ago that all of the non qualified workers were actually non entities who couldn’t possibly do as good a job as the qualified workers and they wanted rid. unfortunately they cannot get enough qualified workers to take up the pre existing posts so after alienating so many of us they’ve been unable to continue with their scheme.

    I still continue to do assessments and commission care in the same way my qualified counterparts do, I take newly qualifieds out with me and student social workers with the full knowledge that they will go on to earn more money and generally get better treated by the LA. I have no issue with that as they are the ones building student debt and going through the stress of study. What bothers me here is the general tone that if you learn on the job you can’t do a good job, that is categorically untrue.
    I attempted to qualify but couldn’t hold down a full time job and do an OU course the stress was too much so I quit.
    Does the lack of qualification mean that people who get me as their worker are being short changed? I have all of the stress with less of the financial reward so why shouldn’t I be allowed to benefit from a scheme like this after a decade of loyal service?

  12. Ian June 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    Fantastic idea as long as it has the financial backing from the Government and councils are properly resourced to do this and ‘quality’ training is provided – big ask I know.

    My wife wants to be a social worker and wants to go to University however the fees are just too steep therefore apprenticeship would be her only way in.

    @Dominique – I believe you should not have had to get in massive debt to get your Social Work degree. We the UK public should be financing it, noting that the UK Government have supposedly found 1 billion pounds for Northern Ireland as part of the DUP deal.