Graduates entering social work in good numbers despite lockdown impact on final-year studies

Restrictions on placements and assessments do not appear to have translated into delays in students completing courses and entering workforce, says Social Work England

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The Covid-19 pandemic does not seem to have significantly delayed gradutes’ entry into social work despite it leading to many final-year students having to cut placements short and universities overhauling assessment procedures.

Social Work England said that 2,149 people – mostly new UK graduates – applied to join the register between 1 July and 4 September. As a new regulator, it does not have comparative figures from previous years to rely on, but Social Work England’s executive director, registration, quality and legal, Phil Hallam, said the rate of applications seemed in line with experience under ex-regulator the Health and Care Professions Council.

“We’ve not seen a drop in numbers applying for registration [compared with HCPC]. [Covid] has slowed us down in terms of getting information from universities in terms of who has graduated. The vast majority of providers have provided us with confirmation.”

However, he added: “As this is our first year of operation, it is difficult to give an accurate picture of whether Covid-19 has had an impact on graduates registering with us.”

Lockdown impact

The coronavirus lockdown was imposed when many final-year students were on their final placements, leading many of these to be cut short.

Though current Social Work England standards do not impose a minimum number of days on placements, many providers specify final-year placements as 100 days.

As a result, courses had to decide whether placements could be assessed over a shorter time period. In addition, final written assessments or exams had to be modified, including through being delayed or conducted online.

Hallam said that, later in the year, the regulator’s quality assurance team would be doing further work with higher education providers on how they adapted to the pandemic and lockdown.

Small drop-off in overseas registrations

Hallam added that there had been a small drop-off in registrations from people from overseas due to the impact of the coronavirus, though not because of reduced demand.

“It’s been often because of delays in those applicants getting the information we need to demonstrate eligibility and that might be because of local lockdowns meaning they can’t get us that information as easily as they could before,” he said. “The team have been doing as much work as possible with those applicants.”

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