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.
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.