Councils given funding to train more staff as social workers through apprenticeships

DHSC makes £20m available for councils and providers for social work and nursing apprenticeships in adult social care

A practice educator or social work manager talking to a student
Photo: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock

The government will give councils funding to train more staff as social workers in adults’ services through apprenticeships.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will give councils and adult social care providers just over £20m between them to fund social work and nursing apprenticeships in 2024-25.

The DHSC announced the funding yesterday, alongside its plan to develop a career pathway for adult social care staff, backed by £53.9m in 2024-25 to fund 37,000 care workers to take a new level 2 qualification (see below).

Both the apprenticeships and pathway funding pots come from £250m the DHSC has set aside to develop the adult social care workforce from 2023-25, a cut from £500m it had originally earmarked for the purpose from 2022-25.

Cut to workforce funding 

The original £500m package had included a plan to train more adult social workers through new routes into the profession, which had been designed to boost the workforce in line with the demands of the planned adult social care charging reforms.

This was ditched after the reforms were delayed by two years – to October 2025 – but the DHSC has now confirmed that at least some of the remaining workforce development funding will go on training new social workers.

This comes with vacancy rates for council adult social workers having risen in recent years, to 11.6% as of September 2022, amid consistently high waiting lists for assessments and reviews, which has been linked to practitioner shortages.

Chief social worker hails announcement

The DHSC’s chief social worker for adults, Lyn Romeo, welcomed the investment in apprenticeships.

“It recognises how essential it is that we attract and support social workers into local authority adult social care departments to work with people and their families to ensure they get the best possible support to live the lives that matter to them,” said Romeo, who retires at the end of this month.

Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults

Lyn Romeo (photo: DHSC)

“The apprenticeship route into social work allows people to work and contribute to social care delivery while completing their social work professional qualification.

“This investment provides local authorities with opportunities to recruit more social work apprentices and will help them build a long-term sustainable workforce for the future.

About social work apprenticeships

Social work apprenticeships are degree-level qualifications that generally take three years, with apprentices spending at least 20% of their time in off-the-job training, delivered by a university or other learning provider.

They spend the rest of the time carrying out their substantive role, though employers also arrange social work placements for them, in line with Social Work England’s requirements for students to do 200 days of practice learning across their course.

Generally, for local authorities, the training costs of apprenticeships – though not other costs, such as salaries – are funded through the apprenticeship levy, a 0.5% charge on the pay bill of larger employers, from which they can then draw down resources for training.

However, in this case, some councils will be able to make use of the DHSC funding for at least some of the social work apprenticeships they fund during 2024-25. This is similar to the Department for Education providing funding of 461 social work apprenticeships for 79 local authority children’s services departments.

New career pathway for care staff

Alongside the apprenticeship announcement, the DHSC unveiled the first phase of its care workforce pathway – a new career framework for adult social care.

This set out four categories for direct care and support roles – new to care, care or support worker, supervisor or leader and practice leader – and required behaviours, expected knowledge and skills, broad responsibilities and potential learning opportunities for each.

Alongside this, the DHSC announced the establishment of a level 2 care certificate, which will be launched in June 2024 and which the department intends to become the baseline qualification for all new care or support workers to work towards.

Recognising care work as ‘skilled profession’

It has provided £53.9m to enable 37,000 staff to enroll on the qualification between June 2024 and March 2025.

Care minister Helen Whately

Care minister Helen Whately (photo: Lauren Hurley/ DHSC)

Care minister Helen Whately said the measures recognised social care “as the skilled profession it is”, and would “give brilliant care workers the chance to develop rewarding careers” in the sector.

They come with the latest Skills for Care data showing that the proportion of care workers with a level 2 qualification had fallen from 49% to 42% from 2018-23, with half having no relevant qualifications.

Whately pointed to analysis by the workforce development body showing that turnover rates were lower where employers provided staff with access to learning opportunities and qualifications.

The same assessment also showed turnover levels were shaped by whether staff were working full-time, on zero-hours contracts or on pay levels above the national living wage, and sector bodies warned the pathway would not succeed without action on salaries.

Lack of pay progression

Pay levels for many care workers are due to increase significantly in April this year, when the national living wage (NLW) rises by 9.8%, from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour, and is applied, for the first time, to those aged 21 and 22.

However, not only have council leaders warned that they have not received additional funding to finance the rise for the providers they commission, but NLW increases do nothing to address the lack of pay progression in the sector.

On average, care workers with at least five years’ experience are paid just six pence (0.6%) more per hour than those with less than a year’s experience, according to Skills for Care.

Third sector provider body the National Care Forum’s chief executive, Vic Rayner, said: “The commitment to train nearly 40,000 staff is a step up from the current position but represents under 10% of all new starters in the sector, and of course none of these commitments come with any focus on moving us closer to a set of pay, terms and conditions that match the skills and expertise laid out in the new pathway.

“The role of a care worker is complex and skilled – and a pathway without an accompanying properly funded pay structure will do little to attract and retain people to progress through the career structure.”

The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, which also represents not-for-profit providers, issued a similar message.

“To fully realise the benefits from the workforce pathway we must see social care adequately funded,” said its chief executive, Rhidian Hughes. “This will enable organisations to make real investment in workforce development and pay over the long term, thereby encouraging workforce development and progression.

‘The government has consistently refused to provide the funding and certainty that not-for-profit organisations desperately need to increase care worker pay. Consequently, third sector providers are left in an impossible situation; committed to delivering high quality support but struggling to fill staff vacancies and facing operating costs rising above commissioned fee rates.”

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23 Responses to Councils given funding to train more staff as social workers through apprenticeships

  1. Adams January 11, 2024 at 7:21 pm #

    All well and good but councils are still insisting on qualified social workers who spend 3 years ON THE JOB TRAINING to undertake ASYE for a year after.

    An apprenticeship is not the same as a 3 year degree at just University, whereby some students are unlucky enough to not even have a placement in a social work department. They need ASYE.

    Why are councils making those who do an apprenticeship undertake ASYE? Because they can keep wages low for another year with no increase to acknowledge they are hitting the ground running.

    • Daisy January 12, 2024 at 7:30 am #

      Hir, any idea on how to apply for the apprenticeship? Please do help

      • Jan January 12, 2024 at 9:16 pm #

        If you contact your local university’s they can help direct.

        • Eddie Mushayanyama January 13, 2024 at 7:08 pm #

          Where can I apply? I live in Weston Supermare.
          Eddie Mushayanyama

      • Aisha January 12, 2024 at 11:42 pm #

        How can I apply, I live in Aberdeen

    • Aza January 12, 2024 at 8:12 am #

      Hi. Where can I apply this apprenticeships for SW job? I live in Northampton

    • Marianne Ecker January 23, 2024 at 2:28 pm #

      The ASYE programme is still a great way to develop further and continue to receive support. Although more Practice experience, the Apprentice is not an independent practitioner in the same way as a qualified social worker and I would hope qualifying apprentices will value the continued support, reduced case load and protected development time . Its an employer investment in the workforce and not a cost saving.

  2. Rebecca Coney January 11, 2024 at 11:27 pm #

    I am very interested in this opportunity, I have an hlc in counselling and would love to train as a social worker. Please could I have more information.

  3. Debbie January 12, 2024 at 9:47 am #

    I did feel this was initially following my 3 year apprenticeship but on completing my ASYE it was invaluable. The close supervision, development reviews, reflection and observations consolidated the 3 years and I felt protected and well supported in my first year of qualifying.

    • Wiggy123 January 13, 2024 at 9:16 am #

      I totally agree, I didn’t want to do an ASYE after all the stress of al apprenticeship but had no choice. I’m finding it really helpful! The extra support and supervision (plus the reduced caseload) are all extremely reassuring.

  4. Mithran Samuel January 12, 2024 at 10:46 am #

    Hi All,

    Just to say there are no details as to which local authorities will get this funding and so be able to fund apprenticeships. We will provide an update when we know.

    Many councils already fund social work apprenticeships for their staff so it’s worth checking if there are opportunities with your employer. If you don’t work for a local authority, I would check out councils local to you to see if there are any opportunities.


    • Joy January 13, 2024 at 7:15 am #

      Thank you Mithran

      That’s exactly how it works , it is through local authorities , Recruitment departments (as it includes gaining working experience and learning on the job basically), or enquiry through community services or hubs within local council /authorities in each area

      Let’s spread the message and support people to take on this opportunity

      Kind Regards

  5. Esther January 12, 2024 at 10:49 am #

    How do I register for enrollment as SW apprenticeship.

    • Wiggy123 January 13, 2024 at 9:14 am #

      You have to work for the local authority in an unqualified social care role to apply. That’s the case with my council anyway.

  6. Rizwan Chaudhry January 12, 2024 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi I’ am 55 years old and worked across the board in many different departments in social services, and have 30 years experience, and never been off sick in last last 5 years and just completed a level 3 Diploma in Adult social care. I had been given e-mail that stipulated that people under 50 can apply for the apprenticeship for social worker, I find this so unfair for staff who are over 50 years old who might of wanted to apply for the apprenticeship in this council. The workforce is getting a lot older due to pension age. How can we challenge this inequality.

  7. Tezira wabuyaka January 12, 2024 at 1:49 pm #

    Am on a skilled worker visa , do I qualify for social work apprenticeship?

  8. David Welsh January 12, 2024 at 2:58 pm #

    I currently have an apprentice for a 70 day placement, I am enjoying passing on my knowledge and skills I have learnt, and also learning from the apprentice. I feel this is a valuable experience and will hopefully support the apprentice to became a valued and experienced practitioner.

  9. Armie Fortune January 13, 2024 at 12:39 am #

    I am a qualified social worker but struggling to gain employment how can I get on this apprenticeship programme.

    • Anna B January 13, 2024 at 9:57 am #

      You can’t get on an apprenticeship to become a social worker if you are already a qualified social worker!

    • Martin Gbolagun January 20, 2024 at 5:55 pm #

      That’s rather unfortunate. Then you should persist in applying to the local authorities/council. This funding reveals that your job is very well needed in councils and I find it difficult that they are not employing you. All the best.

  10. Lovemore Musa January 13, 2024 at 7:53 pm #

    I am interested in the programs. Have tried applying for Step Ahead, Frontline but I came to lose hope as conditions always disadvantaged me. I willn try again this year.

  11. Melrose January 13, 2024 at 8:26 pm #

    How can I apply I live in Maidstone