The government’s delay in announcing social work bursary allocations is creating “instability and unnecessary stress” for students, academics have warned.
With just two months to go until courses start, universities and students have still received no confirmation of how many bursaries are available or the funding provided for placements.
It marks the second year in a row the Department of Health has delayed the announcement. Last year’s allocations were only revealed in August following significant criticism from sector bodies and students affected.
In a joint statement, The Association of Professors of Social Work and the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee, told Community Care they had been requesting information on bursary allocations since January but none had been provided.
“It is deeply regrettable that we now appear to be heading towards a repetition of last year where the situation regarding bursaries was not clarified until the middle of August,” the statement said.
“As we have pointed out to civil servants and ministers on many occasions, the failure to deliver prompt and reliable information with regard to bursaries results in instability and unnecessary stress for all concerned but particularly for students hoping to embark on a career in social work.”
Ruth Allen, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said the DH needed to resolve the situation urgently.
She said: “We understand an announcement is due soon but the uncertainty is putting prospective students in a really difficult position.
“Some tell us it is affecting their decision on whether they can take up their places or not. This dysfunctional and unnecessary situation simply adds confusion to an already complicated picture for social work education right now in England.”
Allen said the sector needed a five year strategy to ensure there were enough social workers coming through each year and to help them plan their careers. She said BASW and other groups were setting up a social work education group which would look at how the four UK countries approached social work education.
“We need to get a solid, collective profession-led voice on what a sustainable approach to social work education should look like,” she added.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are working to have the social work bursary allocations for 2017 finalised as soon as possible and will publish them shortly.”
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