Most local authorities to train social workers through apprenticeships

A survey of children's service leaders also found directors were positive about their social workers' knowledge and skills

The word 'recruit' spelt out
Photo: patpitchaya/Fotolia

A majority of local authorities will offer social work apprenticeships as they believe it will increase the availability of social workers, it has been revealed.

The finding comes from a survey of children’s services directors carried out by the Department for Education. It reported that 70% of the 78 local authorities that took part in the survey said they intended to offer the social work apprenticeship scheme currently being developed by Skills for Care and a group of university and local authority partners.

If it is approved, local authorities will be able to offer the apprenticeship route to social work qualification from September this year. It would be a three-year, practice-based qualification route which includes academic learning from local authority learning partners, likely universities.

Trainees would be paid from day one and finish the course with a degree in social work equivalent to those who qualified from other routes.

“A majority of the [local authorities] (60%) agreed that social work apprenticeships will increase the availability of child and family social workers within their authority while a third (33%) did not,” the report found.


Directors were also positive about the knowledge and skills of social workers in their authority, with 95% saying they were confident practitioners had the right skills.

Only half of the responding authorities said they used the Knowledge and Skills statements for performance management, while over a third said their social workers were supportive of accreditation, while 29% said their social workers weren’t.

The top priorities listed for improving children’s social care was to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce, improve the quality of practice, manage demand for social care services and utilise evidence-based assessments of interventions.

Only 12% of authorities had a assessment of the potential implications on local authorities of the UK withdrawing from the EU.

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23 Responses to Most local authorities to train social workers through apprenticeships

  1. Amy Weir May 22, 2018 at 11:01 am #

    Seems like a return to the previous concept of having trainees who were sponsored onto training in the 1970s. That worked well and I was a beneficiary. Bucks for example had more than 20 trainees at a time.

  2. A Man Called Horse May 22, 2018 at 11:16 am #

    Maybe the Social Workers who agree with accreditation are Tories or maybe they have had frontal lobe lobotomies or maybe both? There is absolutely no doubt that accreditation is good only for KPMG & Morgan Lane Associates.

    Social workers need to wake up and smell the coffee. The route discussed here will allow Local Authorities to pay lower salaries to apprentice social workers with no guarantee a job will be available at the end.

    I would not recommend Social Work now, high stress, very poor pay and never ending Austerity have set social workers up as the fall guy when things go wrong.
    Imagine a rat on a treadmill forever running faster to stand still welcome to Social Work under the Tories.

    • Brenda May 23, 2018 at 11:10 pm #

      Same under Labour

      • ian kemp May 31, 2018 at 10:20 am #

        Brenda Which Labour are you referring to Blair ?

        To a Man called Horse.. Yes I agree I would not recommend Social work to anybody with a desire to help people . Go some ware else, rather than get caught up in the mechanisms of the Local Gov bureaucracy. You will get increasingly frustrated and dispirited. You will hours on computer’s instead of seeing clients and really helping people following various paper trails. It is mainly about control rather than care . It does not matter how caring you are and what your sensitivities are. If you fail in some quite often miner not major failing, the bureaucratic system will via various managers of this and that come down on you like a ton of bricks.

        Social work lost its way with the advent of Thatcherism neoliberalism in the 80s. During early 70s when as a graduate with 3 degrees I started in social work it was a caring optimistic job with lots of young enthusiastic grads of this and that who wanted to change things after 60s challenges to the status quo.

        It was a great time . The unions were strong and supportive. Things felt great. Than the advent of Thatcherism neoliberalism the selling off of public services was the mantra. A series of Child abuse tragedies played into the narrative that social work was not able to do the job.

        The right wing press in particular had a field day. They did not like anything with the word social in it. Worse the inevitable inquiries at great cost, were chaired by Lawyers, with not a director of social work in many cases even on the Inquiry .What status social had, further plummeted. The public perception was what a bunch of useless people. This narrative further played into the Thatcher Gov Ideology that services need to be controlled . by whatever bureaucratic means was available. This suited Thatcher, rather than increase training of social workers. And further a program of educating the public about the nature of social problems in the modern day world that neoliberalism had created. Of cause there was no such thing as society anyway, just a bunch of individuals. We fought against this in the 80s with a than strong Union to support us. But ,gradually the local Gov bureaucracy began to squeeze the life out of social work with encouragement of the Gov and our wonderful free press.

        Eventually the social work departments were taken over by education departments and any Tom Dick or Harry was now called a Director of Social services. Local authority offered fat salaries so they would play the bureaucratic game. Social work with out any real voice , the unions were effectively castrated by the Thatcher Gov. began rapidly to lose its way . It just became effectively a branch of Local Gov.It was no longer treated as a profession by the Local authorities. unless they wanted to discipline or get rid of somebody for often what was often quite a minor bureaucratic mistake.
        The state of social work today is a mish mass of fragmented of bits of services with a purchaser provider ethos . This means that there are large paper trails to follow for some jobs worthy further up the hierarchy paid a tidy sum to watch what is going on. The computer becomes the main tool of the system rather than any form of skill development, that any normal profession would expect. It is about control not care.
        Sorry about that but that is modern social work for want of a better word.

        No I today would not go Anyware near social work unless you see that you can climb the hierarchy of local Gov get a nice fat salary and a secure index linked pension that you can retire in comfort with.

        The only way forward would be for some Politician to examine what is going on along with good proper academic research and create a proper professional department away from Local authority. Expensive may be initially. But in the end a lot cheaper and more effective and a job that could be so much more professional and satisfying.

        Is there any hope.? Not with the prevailing Gov with their Austerity and privatisation agenda. But it is in my view for what it is worth the only way that social work can be rescued from the Bureaucratic control hole that it is in. Of cause there will a bureaucracy in any new department . But at least it is a social work one controlled by social work rather than the control freaks and jobs worthies that live and thrive and occupy Our Local Gov s out there.

        Sorry about that . But it is my perception after over 40 years in the business in every area of what used to called social work.

  3. Deborah May 22, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    Could local authorities look at offering social workers who have taken career breaks – return to social work training . I have seen many comments on various sights from social workers wishing to return but feeling unable to do so due to feeling they need to be offered refresher training and also extra support. Most of these workers like myself have had years of experience. There is a government scheme that offers this to a handful of social workers but not country wide and places are limited.

    I am certain with the current abudance of vacancies in social work, local authorities are missing an opportunity to secure experienced workers.

    • Dorinda Bennett May 25, 2018 at 11:02 am #

      I’m pretty sure West Sussex Children’s Services does?

  4. Paul May 22, 2018 at 2:10 pm #

    One of the things which I believe Social Work as a profession suffers from is the wide variation in academic ability when compared with other professions. While I am all in favour of finding ways to increase the number of people coming into the profession I hope this initiative doesn’t weaken the academic rigour that already is too weak. I also worry that this initiative is about keeping down salaries as I am sure thatcaplrentices will be bound tolc authorities for some time after they qualify.

  5. Nicole Mcclay May 22, 2018 at 8:30 pm #

    Is this happening in Scotland.

  6. Rosemary Wood May 23, 2018 at 10:43 am #

    Where does this leave current Social Work students at university? Will there be any positions available once they complete their degree?

    • Jay May 25, 2018 at 7:18 am #

      There will be lots of positions available as there are a high number locums filling the spaces at the moment.

  7. Gail J Keeley May 23, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

    Already done in Scotland. Through Local authorities working in partnership with open university. Excellent opportunity for people with family responsibilities to add to their skills, qualifications and experience if coordinated and managed well. Giving opportunity for experience in the various areas of social work instead of current two. Salary would need to be comparable with existing salaries.

    • Sara May 24, 2018 at 11:33 am #

      Scotland was and is ahead in training for the job. Proud to be Scottish and still in the job after 31 years.

  8. Laura May 23, 2018 at 8:43 pm #

    Great I’m going to be in debt because Iv had to borrow £59000. I well wish this came out earlier

  9. Galloper May 23, 2018 at 10:43 pm #

    As long as it doesent bring about some weird dicothemy of ‘us and ‘them’- i.e the ‘apprentices’ vs the ‘front lines’ where people are treated differently dependant on the route…..

  10. Bee May 24, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    So in effect, the directors wish to train people how to follow process and know the internal systems rather to encourage social workers to have wider holistic assessments and approaches and to think more widely? Why is that not surprising?

  11. jane May 24, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

    I trained under this kind of scheme in the 1980s.I couldnt have done the training without pay .
    I have now given over 30 years LA service who paid for me to do this..
    I believe i am able to see the wider picture
    .I keep up with training . I am proud to be amongst the first cohort to use the 1989 Childrens Act. We made history !
    Like a lot of my fellow trainees ,I wanted to do frontline work .I still do. I am not a manager.
    I have advocated for a return to this process for years as part of getting sw to the front line.
    I have seen so many young people do the SW degree and find its not for them.
    Then they are saddled with major debt and a job they dont want.
    Social work is not for all. Its a strange beast of a job at times and having apprenticeships can mean a lot of perminent staff .
    I can see other arguements.
    As a mother of children with degrees and debt I can sympathise.
    This must be seen as part of a challenge. Pehaps we need to look at who is identifed for the apprenticeships? It would be good to see a level playing field for all who wish to apply.
    I certainly know many workers who could manage a paid apprenticeship but cant consider university?
    Please give it room .

    However used wisely this could be a good way forward for LA to maintain and train staff.

  12. Amy May 25, 2018 at 10:01 am #

    I am currently working as a Community Care Officer for a LA. This would be perfect for people like myself and other colleagues I know who do the same role as myself and want to progress in their career which we cannot currently unless we have a social or OT qualification. There is no way I could afford to go back to university, I have a mortgage to pay and wouldn’t get the same financial support as I have already got a degree in another subject and already has university debts. I love my team and would love to carry on working in my LA so this is something I know has been a long time coming for a lot of people. If something like this was not available my options would either be to have to stay as I am now in a role with no opportunity to progress and on a much lower salary or change my career and have to go and completely start from the bottom somewhere else in a sector I have no experience in or passion for.

    I think it would attract lots of people carers, support workers, people like me who are already in social care but can not afford to go to university and would give them the opportunity to progress in their careers and do something they are passionate about.

    LA’s are crying out for Social workers and OTs and often already have people working for them in their teams desperate to become one. So I don’t see how this doesn’t make sense and why it has taken so long.

    • J May 25, 2018 at 11:11 pm #

      Amen ???

  13. CV May 25, 2018 at 9:24 pm #

    I want to know which local authorities are taking part in this scheme,so I can make enquiries. Please share with me if you know.

  14. Felix May 26, 2018 at 9:08 am #

    This article is misleading. Only 78 local authorities took part in the survey, so it is a majority of those in the survey that will offer them. There are approx 152 local authorities in England with social service responsibilities. 70% of 78 is approx 55 local authorities!

  15. MeMe May 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    My concern would be the ‘quality control’ factor. If apprentices are working in a LA CS where there are questionable attitudes and and practices, then my worry would be that these would be passed onto the apprentices, tbhis perpetuating an existing problem – lets face the fact that Ofsted have recently stated that two thirds of CS are either failing or require improvement – oftimes due to very poor leadership and management – and we would trust the training of apprentices to LAs like this? Social workers who take such an apprenticeship route may indeed become qualified SWs, but what quality will they be? The problems in SW and in particular CS social work are NOT simply about the numbers of SWs, but the quality of the work a qualified SW does.

  16. Paul May 30, 2018 at 6:30 pm #

    I agree with a support worker I am in a role that has given me a grounding in social care but with no way to move into social work due to financial realities. The tortuous application forms for frontline and it’s ilk took forever to complete,I tried twice and failed; I thought ” life’s too short” so I let it go.. perhaps this is a return to sanity I will be watching this thread with interest.

  17. ian kemp May 31, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    Yes as I said above

    Create a social work department away from Local authority. Professionalise all care. Including children’s care homes old people homes home care workers . get rid of the purchaser provider ethos take all care into house in the new department. Professionalise and train all workers to a high standard.

    Costly ? May be at first. But, eventually it would be cheaper. But the main thing it would be much more professional and a attraction for people who have the empathy and care that used to dominate the job many years ago.