The government is examining how councils can place more social work students to meet its ambitions to increase numbers coming into the profession.
Ministers intend to train more practitioners through new and existing training routes as part of its reforms to adult social care, funded through part of £500m allocated to develop the wider social care workforce from 2022-25.
More social workers will be needed to deal with hundreds of thousands of more assessments and reviews required annually due to the funding reforms coming into force next year, which include a more generous means-testing system and an £86,000 cap on people’s spending on personal care.
However, a recent Social Work England report found that half of social work education providers were struggling to place students in the wake of the pandemic, with the biggest reasons being availability of practice educators and pressures on frontline staff reducing employers’ capacity to support students.
In an impact statement on its reforms, published this week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said absorbing more placements “may cause pressure on some LAs with small-scale workforce infrastructures that are unable to support the increase in capacity”.
It said that it was likely that councils would have to “adjust teams to accommodate an increased number of people on training programmes”.
‘Lost productivity’ risk
“This could include lost productivity and more time spent by practice educators to support people through the programmes,” it said. “This may limit the availability of placements.”
The DHSC said it was considering how best to support councils to expand their capacity to take in students. It said this was in the context of social work being a “demanding and stressful career”, as evidenced by the fact that councils experienced a turnover rate of 12.8%, and vacancy rate of 8.1%, among adult social workers, as of 2020-21.
It added: “The government plans to invest in new and existing training routes for people who want to become social workers. This is intended to maintain the quality of social work education and training and help to sustain a sufficient supply of social workers with the right skills, knowledge, and values.”
The DHSC said it would decide on the delivery mechanisms for the additional places following consultation with the sector.