Social Work Education. Agree or Disagree?

2014 has seen two reviews of Social Work education in England, that being Sir Martin Narey’s review and David Croisdale-Appleby’s review. While Narey’s review received more media attention, both reviews offer an insight into how social workers are educated and how well they are prepared for their jobs. Both reviews give recommendations which I will explore below.

Narey’s Review 

Narey’s review looks into Children’s Social Work education. It highlights different problems within the above area and has 18 recommendations. I am going to look at 6 of these recommendations, as these are perhaps the most important. The 6 recommendations highlighted are as follows:

  • A single document outlining what a newly qualified children’s social worker should know.
  • Undergraduate social work students must have at least 24o UCAS points to get onto a course (unless entering through a non A-Level route).
  • Responsibility for regulating social workers in England should be transferred to the College of Social Work.
  • The College of Social Work’s endorsement scheme should be compulsory.
  • Higher education institutions should only receive a share of the Education Support Grant if they provide high-quality practice placements.
  • Universities should be encouraged to develop specialist children’s social work degrees.

A single document outlining what a newly qualified children’s social worker should know. 

As a social worker, you are expected to have knowledge of the profession. This knowledge is gained from your degree, through theory and through practice. Some healthcare professions have a document which states what they must know upon graduation both in terms of practice and in terms of theory (knowledge). Social Work has the HCPC standards of proficiency and the College of Social Work’s Professional Capabilities Framework (namely the PCF). The question to be asked here is are they too broad? In my opinion, I think that both documents provide social workers with an overview of what they need to know. They have generic standards and capabilities. However in terms of children’s social work, they don’t highlight what they need to know specifically, so they are able to practice effectively.

Undergraduate social work students must have at least 24o UCAS points to get onto a course (unless entering through a non A-Level route). 

I’ll answer this solely based on personal experience. I did my A-Levels, in English Language, English Literature and Film Studies (some would argue they are “weak” subjects, some would say “how do they relate to social work?”, others would simply say it depends on the grades). I came out with BCC. At the moment, that is equivalent to 260 UCAS points. Based on grades, on Narey’s review, I’d pass. I was accepted by my university on the basis of these grades (Sunderland University). Now I have also done a BTEC in Health and Social Care at Level 3, which is “equivalent” to 3 A Levels. BTEC’s aren’t as highly regarded as A Levels and this has always been the case. I’m predicted to get D* D* D* (which is 420 UCAS points). Now based on those grades, according to universities I’d be accepted with these grades for a social work degree course. I’d be accepted (grades only) with these grades. Now which one looks better? Or does it matter? In my opinion both look good, they are both at the same level (Level 3), both require hard work and both develop skills needed for higher education and Social Work itself. I think that it should not matter what qualification/s you have for Social Work, you should be expected to get higher than 240 UCAS points though. I think that BBB at A Level would be sufficient enough to let a good standard of students onto the degree. As for BTEC’s the current mark for Social Work programmes is around DMM-DDD. I think that this is far too easy – it should be moved up to DDD across all programmes. If there is a change for A Level students, there should be a change for BTEC students also. If the profession wants a high calibre of students, increase the grade boundaries, that way intellectuality comes into the equation

Responsibility for regulating social workers in England should be transferred to the College of Social Work.

At present (2014), the social work profession in England is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. They regulate many other professions besides social work. Narey proposed that regulation should become the responsibility of the College of Social Work. I believe that this should happen. We should have a regulatory body that focuses solely on the social work profession, rather than a body that regulates many other professions too. I think that this will provide more focus and will ensure that we have a better system in place for regulation. The College of Social Work will have within it, experienced social workers, therefore with this experience should come knowledge of what should happen in the profession. Who better to decide standards than individuals who have been in the field for many years?

The College of Social Work’s endorsement scheme should be compulsory.

I must admit, I had to my research on this recommendation as I don’t think many individuals coming into the social work profession are aware of this. There are two College of Social Work endorsements, one for Higher Education institutions and one for continuing professional development for organisations. After reading in to it, I feel it would be beneficial if this was compulsory. I think it would ensure that high quality Social Work qualifying programmes were recognised and those who weren’t of high quality could be helped to improve. It would also mean that high quality training programmes and organisations could be recognised, again helping to highlight the good training programmes and organisations whilst helping other ones to improve. It comes at a cost but that cost really is worth it in the long run. We want a high calibre of social workers being trained by recognised, high quality institutions and organisations on programmes supported by the College of Social Work.

Higher education institutions should only receive a share of the Education Support Grant if they provide high-quality practice placements

I agree with this completely. The Education Support Grant is given to universities to pay employers after placement preparation. At the moment there is a large amount of pressure on universities to provide high quality placements, with even more pressure to provide statutory placements for final year students. Local authorities are under pressure too, to accept students too. The cuts are taking their toll BUT we should be trying to ensure that students get a high quality placement experience. If universities prove that they can do this, then yes, they should be given a share of the grant to reward employers.

Universities should be encouraged to develop specialist children’s social work degrees.

I can see both sides of this recommendation. It would be good, as for those that wanted to work with children in social work, they could spend three years learning about social work with children. Focusing on development of children, on child protection and other areas. This would of course be a specialist degree. This would then produce social workers trained to work with children. However, what would happen if they wanted to then work with adults? They couldn’t? How would the degree be structured? What kind of placements would be offered? The specialist degree recommendation in my opinion leaves more questions than answers!

Croisdale-Appleby’s Review

David Croisdale-Appleby also reviewed social work education. I am going to look into 8 of his recommendations for social work education. The 8 recommendations are as follows:

– Prospective social work students should have at least 300 UCAS points.
– Knowledge about the capabilities/perspectives of related professions (such as medicine) should be introduced into the curriculum.
– The HCPC’s standards and College of Social Work’s endorsement scheme should be combined and the HCPC should continue to regulate social work education.
– Graduates should have to complete a probationary year on the job, after which they could qualify for a licence to practise.
– The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) should be extended to all newly-qualified social workers.
– There is a pressing need for a new continuing professional development (CPD) framework.
– Social workers should have to undergo a process of revalidation, demonstrating their continuing fitness to practise.
– More investment is needed in workforce development, funding for practice placements and the ASYE

Prospective social work students should have at least 300 UCAS points.

With a BTEC you can get 320 UCAS points equating to DDM. The A Level equivalent is BBB. This in my opinion is a better marker of academic potential. Though it may detract individuals away from the profession, it may mean that students will be of a higher calibre. If we want students who can perform well academically then I feel that this is a much more realistic option.

Knowledge about the capabilities/perspectives of related professions (such as medicine) should be introduced into the curriculum.

Multidisciplinary working from my understanding is about knowing your roles within a person’s care and sharing expertise so you can provide the best, person centered, holistic care. Implementing this into the curriculum would definitely emphasise the importance of this concept and would make social work students more aware of what other professionals roles are within the Health and Social Care sector. I think it would ensure better integrated working and would make social work students communicate and understand better.

The HCPC’s standards and College of Social Work’s endorsement scheme should be combined and the HCPC should continue to regulate social work education

I think that these should be kept separate. These are two different bodies. The HCPC has standards which are set by them. The College of Social Work has the endorsement scheme. Both of these work well on their own in my opinion so why should we change them to combine together? The HCPC regulate many other professions as I mentioned above, therefore I disagree with the HCPC maintaining regulation of the social work profession in England. The standards set by the HCPC should be carried over to the College of Social Work, as generally they are a good set of standards.

Graduates should have to complete a probationary year on the job, after which they could qualify for a licence to practise.

I think this would be both a good idea and a bad idea. A good idea because it would mean that graduates would be able to be supported in employment, more so than they are now. It would help the profession recruit the best social workers possible too. However I’m left with more questions than answers with this recommendation. What would happen after the probationary year? Would there be an exam? What would happen with the ASYE (assessed and supported year in employment?). I think this needs more explanation as on the surface it’s a good idea, looking deeper there are a lot of questions that need answers.

The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) should be extended to all newly-qualified social workers.

I agree that all social workers should be able to benefit from this. It is in my opinion a valuable aspect of social work education. It allows for newly qualified social workers to feel supported and allows employers to assess competencies after graduating from a qualifying social work programme. So why not make it available to all NQSW’s?

There is a pressing need for a new continuing professional development (CPD) framework.

I think that CPD is a very important part of any Health and Social Care profession as legislation is constantly changing. In social work, social workers have to complete CPD. I couldn’t find a lot of information on the current framework, however if this is a recommendation then obviously something needs to be done to the framework we have at present.

Social workers should have to undergo a process of revalidation, demonstrating their continuing fitness to practise

I believe social workers should be at their best. They should be working to the highest standard possible. In order to show they can continue practising as a social worker I think social workers should be revalidated every few years to assess how well they practise. This would help ensure that only the most competent individuals were undertaking social service.

More investment is needed in workforce development, funding for practice placements and the ASYE

I agree with this. Although funding is an issue in all areas of social work and although there are cuts and a lack of resources, I think these areas need to be made better to ensure best practice. Workforce development helps to build individuals competencies in terms of their skills and knowledge, in turn this helps with practice standards. If we invest in this area it keeps social workers up to date with legislative changes and equips them with more knowledge, it also helps to combat negative stigma attached to the profession. This is something I feel very strongly about. If we have social workers that are able to explain why they are doing something I.e. Removing a child from their parents or placing an older person in a care home then I think perception of the profession would change. Practice placements have faced a lot of scrutiny over the past few years. With less students gaining experience in a statutory setting, we are faced with less equipped social workers. If we fund this area then social workers can receive more high quality placements with a better chance of gaining experience in a statutory environment. While we can’t ensure that every social work student gets experience in this area, we can make a start by funding the area better. Lastly, funding for the ASYE. This area would benefit from funding as it helps with ensuring we have the most competent individuals, working in the social work profession.

In conclusion, I think recommendations can be taken from both recommendation documents. We need a more competent workforce that meets the standards and ensures the best practice possible.

 

 

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