Government examining how councils can take more social work students

DHSC admits there is risk of 'lost productivity' in social work teams from its plans to increase student numbers as part of adult social care reforms

Black student in university library
Photo: Samuel B/Adobe Stock

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.

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5 Responses to Government examining how councils can take more social work students

  1. Claire Hughes February 26, 2022 at 10:53 am #

    How about the novel idea of teams being properly staffed so there are enough social workers to mentor students through their journey.

  2. Hassan February 26, 2022 at 11:12 am #

    Perhaps if the ‘qualification’ to become a Practice Educator was less bureauctic and dare I say less infected with pomposity and earnest but useless to the student guff, things might be better? Incentivise us with pride in our work and our worth, not with a faux academic jargon heavy but evidence absent process. Oh and give us space from our ‘normal’ work to actually spend time with the student.

    • John Newman March 3, 2022 at 8:37 am #

      I would agree with the previous comments.
      Having time to support students is really tough if you are carrying a heavy caseload.
      Undertaking practice educator training is tough if you are given no workload relief to study. The ongoing underfunding of LA’s is clearly the root of yhe problem and has been since I came into the profession in the 1980’s but has greatly worsened in the last 12 years.

      When I first became a practice teacher in the 1990’s I was given some financial recompence and it was part of my job description as a Senior Practitioner. I was able to work closely with students and they worked on some of my lighter cases. There was also scope for joint working and informal and formal supervision. It seemed to work well.

  3. Sarah March 10, 2022 at 8:35 pm #

    I AM A PE
    the profession…..
    the funding….
    the students paperwork …..

    Fix the amount of work social workers are expected to do in a given week in the statutory sector first-
    I take students all the time but my personal life suffers for this, I do this as I am passionate for new practitioners to come into the field.

    Enable better funding to support the PE. – it takes a lot of time and support needed to have a student in placement.

    Furthermore sort out the expected paperwork we have to complete – this leaves me deciding which uni I take from dependant on what paperwork you want back from me.
    some uni’s paperwork is far too much. I agreed with a Midway, Final report and observations but so much of the other things are pointless.

  4. Thevoiceofsocialwork March 15, 2022 at 7:07 am #

    If the government had any ounce of care for people it would let there be sweeping changes. A system designed in partnership with communities and perhaps even a workforce that are liked by the public!!!

    Reduce paperwork, use tech better, more presence in schools and comminities, visits along side NHS and police…

    What’s sropping us? Local authority stuffiness and government austerity.

    Don’t pile pressure on students, let them learn contribute with intelligence and compassion.