Half of councils given funding to recruit 461 social work apprentices to bolster children’s workforce

£11.7m in DfE funding will go to 79 authorities, with apprentices trained through existing university programmes

Image of student at work
Photo: Solis Images/Fotolia

Half of councils have been given a share of £11.7m to recruit 461 social work apprentices to bolster their children’s services workforces.

The Department for Education funding will go to 79 of the 153 authorities, who were chosen following an application process.

The trainees will be employed, and based, in their children’s services departments, and follow existing three-year university social work apprenticeship programmes, with councils then deciding whether to hire them on qualification.

The measure is part of the government’s children’s social care reform agenda, set out in the Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy, which was consulted upon earlier this year.

It is designed to tackle the significant shortages in the children’s social work workforce in English councils, with vacancies hitting 20%, and the proportion of agency staff 17.6%, in September 2022.

The apprentices supplement the DfE’s funding for 450 trainees to go through the Frontline programme annually and for the Step Up to Social Work scheme, which runs every other year and is expected to train 700 students in 2024-25. Both fast-track schemes are geared towards training practitioners to work in local authority children’s services, and sit alongside generic social work undergraduate degrees, master’s courses and degree apprenticeships and the Think Ahead scheme, focused on training people to work in adult mental health*.

The DfE announced the apprenticeships at the same time as confirming that it was going ahead with introducing rules limiting councils’ use of agency social workers, though in significantly amended form.

“A strong social care workforce is key to achieving our ambition to reform the children’s care sector,” said children’s minister David Johnston.

“Children’s social workers play a vital role in helping the country’s most vulnerable families, which is why we’re boosting training opportunities and strengthening rules on using agency staff.”

*The article has been updated to set out a comprehensive list of routes into social work in England.


5 Responses to Half of councils given funding to recruit 461 social work apprentices to bolster children’s workforce

  1. Christy October 28, 2023 at 9:50 am #

    It’s a great idea but training people up isn’t enough. They have to hit the ground running and often face high and often complex caseloads…they then become disillusioned and burnt out. I’ve seen many social work students leave the profession after only a very short time in practice! That is an absolute shame all their commitment and dedication shattered by an overworked and underpaid public service sector!!!

  2. John Cluster October 28, 2023 at 10:25 am #

    Council are totally taking advantage of social workers after they have spent 3 years undertaking ON THE JOB learning while doing the apprenticeship.

    Agree, AYSE is needed for those undertaking a traditional degree as they may only have 2 placements in social work (I actually know someone who didn’t even have a placement in Adult Social Care), and the AYSE gives them the confidence and actually experience of undertaking Care Act assessment and applying legislation, PCFs ect.

    However, apprenticeship gives that experience for 3 years solid and yet the Councils still want social workers to do AYSE so they can save money by not giving a pay rise for another year and gain the £2000 funding.

    Even more insulting is that workers from abroad, who do not even know what a PCF is, or have never set yeeyes on the Care Act, have no extra training or AYSE at all.

  3. Ayodeji Owolabi October 29, 2023 at 7:35 am #

    Proudly a social worker

  4. Silvia October 30, 2023 at 7:15 am #

    It is really discouraging to see how some councils want newly qualified social workers to know so.much during interviews when they talk of training and staff development. I qualified last year but still struggling to get employed as I am told I lack experience. What is the point of recruiting more when you can’t employ or retain those already trained? A year has passed for me without a job and if another does will consider career change.

  5. D more October 31, 2023 at 10:17 am #

    Why is money not being allocated to encourage return to social work training? Social workers with years and years of experience. They could update and gain back to work experience which would be invaluable to local authorities