1 Social work training in England |
10. The Care Standards Act 2000 introduced greater
regulation of the social work profession through the establishment
of the General Social Care Council. To practise as a social worker,
professionals must be registered with the GSCC; in registering
they must demonstrate that they have achieved an appropriate social
work qualification and are undertaking post-registration training
and learning. There are 78,635 registered social workers across
all settings and specialisms in England (children's services,
older people, mental health, disabilities).
11. In 2003, a three-year Bachelor's degree in
social work replaced the two-year diploma (DipSW) as the main
qualification route; there is also the option of a two-year Master's
for those with a first degree. The degrees are generic in nature,
meaning that students learn about social work with both adult
and child client groups.
To achieve either the Bachelor's or Master's degree, students
must undertake 200 days of assessed practice, giving them experience
in at least two practice settings with at least two user groups.
12. The General Social Care Council approves
Higher Education Institutions to deliver the social work degree,
and grants programme approval for individual courses. In February
2009 there were 231 approved social work degree courses delivered
by 71 universities and 9 associated HEIs.
Funding for social work degree courses comes from four sources:
- £27m for universities
from the General Social Care Council;
- £5m for placements from the Children's Workforce
Development Council and Skills for Care (the sector skills bodies
for children's and adults social care respectively);
- £70m from the NHS Business Services Authority
for student bursaries;
- Per student funding from the Higher Education
Funding Council for England.
13. The number of students enrolled on initial
social work qualifying degrees in 2007-08 was 5,221; 24% were
studying at Master's level. There has been a decline in students
qualifying through part-time study since the introduction of the
degree in 2003, from 19% to 8%.
An age barrier to qualifying as a social worker, previously set
at a minimum of 22 years, was withdrawn when the degree was introduced;
students over the age of 25 now account for 61% of the total intake.
The intake for social work tends to represent a more ethnically
diverse profile than other degree courses, but only 13% of enrolments
are by men.
14. The social work degree has been successful
in encouraging higher numbers of people to train as social workers;
there has been a 37% increase in student numbers since 2003. Not
all those who study on the degree courses, however, go on to practice
as social workers.
A system of non-income assessed bursaries for students while they
train was established at the same time as the new degree courses.
The vast majority of applications for bursaries are accepted;
in the 2008/9 academic year, 9848 undergraduates and 2660 postgraduates
received bursaries. Some local authorities or voluntary organisations
second or sponsor their employees to study the social work degree
through the Open University or a local university, following a
period of employment with them. This sponsorship will include
financial support or salary through the duration of the course.
15. Registered Social Workers are required to
keep their training and learning up to date in order to re-register
with the GSCC after the initial three-year period. In September
2007 the GSCC launched a new Post-Qualifying Framework which is
divided into three levels: Specialist Social Work, Higher Specialist
Social Work and Advanced Social Work. There are five specialisms
in the post-qualifying framework: mental health; adult social
care; practice education; leadership and management; and children
and young people, their families and carers.
The Task Force and other initiatives
16. The Social Work Task Force was set up in
December 2008 "to advise the Government on the content of
a comprehensive programme of reform for the whole social work
The Secretaries of State for Health and for Children, Schools
and Families told us that they "are prepared to consider
radical reforms of the social work education system if that is
what the Task Force recommend."
17. As part of the Government's response to Lord
Laming's report on child protection in May 2009, the Secretary
of State for Children, Schools and Families announced funding
of £58m for a new Social Work Transformation Fund "to
increase the capacity of the system to train and support social
workers and implement change in the immediate term". It will
fund a range of initiatives:
- An additional 200 places on
the Graduate Recruitment Scheme from September 2009 (this scheme
sponsors graduates with a minimum of 2:1 in a first degree to
undertake the social work Master's route into the profession);
- A Return to Social Work scheme to help former
social workers move more easily back into the profession; "Our
aim is that there should be 500 social workers back in the workplace
from this autumn, supported by refresher training where they need
- Introduction of a 'practice-focused' Master's
degree for qualified social workers, to be piloted from 2011,
with an aspiration that, over time, social work becomes a Master's-level
- Expansion of the Newly Qualified Social Workers
programme so that is it available to all new children and families'
social workers in statutory services and the third sector from
- Additional support for frontline managers "to
help them develop their leadership, management and supervision
skills" from autumn 2009.
Also previously announced was the development of
a "career framework" by the Children's Workforce Development
Council, to "provide greater focus on training and development
needs and set out expected standards of practice at various career
framework will build on the Newly-Qualified Social Worker Programme
to establish: an Early Professional Development Programme for
those in their second and third years of employment, and Advanced
Social Work Practitioner status which will create senior practice-focused
roles for "excellent and experienced" social workers
in local authority children and families services.
In July 2009, the Secretary of State announced plans for a work-based
training route for career changers.
18. We asked Moira Gibb, Chair of the Social
Work Task Force, whether the Government's announcements in response
to the Laming report had inhibited the work of the Task Force
in any way. She responded:
We understand the context of the Haringey situationthat
Lord Laming is reporting and that the Government need to respond.
That does not create a particular problem for us, but there is
some confusion out there about which things are coming from where.
There has been a lot of activity in a short period. The recommendations
about newly qualified social workers, for example, are wholly
to be welcomed. We have to work within those realities.
Task Force Joint Deputy Chair Andrew Webb told us
"it does not feel like a constrained exercise."
19. We asked the Minister, Baroness Morgan, why
so many new initiatives had been announced before the Task Force
had had a chance to make its recommendations. She told us:
It would be unacceptable for the Government to sit
back and simply wait until the Task Force had finished its deliberation
] We had already identified some very significant steps
such as rolling out the Newly-Qualified Social Worker initiative
to all statutory and voluntary providers in September. It was
widely accepted that that was the right thing to do [
are some very straightforward things we can be getting on with.
We are working very closely with the Task Force to make sure that
our communication is good and that what we are doing does not
pre-empt, or undermine, what it might recommend later on.
20. Although we have received
reassurances about the Social Work Task Force's scope to recommend
radical reforms, we remain concerned about the plethora of new
initiatives which have been announced and set in motion before
the Task Force reports. While we appreciate the need to take urgent
action in the light of Lord Laming's report on child protection,
we consider that a more strategic approach would serve the social
work profession better in the long term. It is not clear how these
initiatives fit together either with each other, or with existing
structures. For example,
the links between the Children's Workforce Development Council's
new "career framework", the existing Post-Qualification
Framework overseen by the General Social Care Council, and the
future introduction of a 'practice-focused' Master's degree have
not been articulated.
National leadership and sector
21. Despite the relatively small size of social
work as a profession, a large number of organisations carry out
a range of roles on the national level. Their functions are summarised
below, in comparison with the equivalent bodies in the teaching
||Responsible children's social work body
|Funding initial training
||Higher Education Funding Council for England
||Training & Development Agency
|Commissioning initial training
||Training & Development Agency
|Quality of initial training
||General Social Care Council regulates training
||Ofsted inspects training on behalf of Training & Development Agency
|Regulation and registration of the workforce
||General Social Care Council
||General Teaching Council for England
|Inspection of services
||Children's Workforce Development Council
||Training & Development Agency, General Teaching Council
||No national body
||DCSF through the Teacher Supply Model
||GSCC sets standards and criteria for courses, endorsing those that meet requirements, and regulates delivery by HEIs; commissioning happens at regional level (with variable results)
||Training & Development Agency subsidises approved courses
|Dissemination of best practice and research
||Social Care Institute for Excellence
||Various including DCSF, TDA, GTC
||National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services
||National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services
22. Rosie Varley, Chair of the GSCC outlined
what she saw as the main functions of national sector bodies:
In my view, we need a strong regulator that focuses
on regulation. We need a strong professional body, which to date
has been lacking in social work. I really welcome the initiative
that there is now to have a 'College of Social Work' that could
become a 'Royal College of Social Work'. We need to have a strong
work force development agency. The time has come to develop a
very clear model with distinct boundaries between those three
organisations and some discipline on their behalf only to operate
in the area that is their own responsibility.
23. Many believe that the children's social work
sector is beset by "too many cooks", and that there
is an urgent need for greater clarity about the distinct roles
and functions of these organisations.
The Social Work Task Force has reported in its initial findings
that many social workers "have expressed confusion about
unclear roles or overlapping remits of those organisations or
find it hard to understand the work that they do."
The GSCC has itself admitted that there is confusion about which
body does what in relation to the funding of social work education.
The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) argued
that there should be a single body planning for the non-schools
children's workforce, because duplication in the roles of CWDC,
Skills for Care and GSCC "does not provide value for money
or allow a comprehensive approach". In particular, the ADCS
wish to see commissioning and funding of qualifying courses united
under the Children's Workforce Development Council, to parallel
the role of the Training and Development Agency for Schools for
The influence of the CWDC is currently circumscribed by the fact
that they deal with children's social workers only after they
have completed their initial training, and not at all with adults'
social workers, for whom the sector skills body is Skills for
Care. Higher education institutions have found that the division
of responsibilities between adult's and children's sector bodies
has meant duplication of work.
24. Various pieces of work are being undertaken
within Government in relation to these bodies. The 2020 Children
and Young People's Workforce Strategy announced a review of the
remits of several non-departmental public bodies serving the children's
workforce to consider "whether they are configured appropriately
to provide the most effective delivery of workforce reform and
Re-licensing of the Sector Skills Councils which have responsibility
for parts of the children and young people's workforce was underway
in early 2009. The Department of Health in September 2008 commissioned
a review of the roles of the Social Care Institute for Excellence,
Skills for Care, and the GSCC. As part of this exercise, a review
of the organisations' roles in social work training was due to
be carried out jointly with the DCSF.
25. One consequence of the proliferation of bodies
appears to be a sense that the social work profession lacks leadership
at a national level.
Andrew Webb, Joint Deputy Chair of the Social Work Task Force
spoke of the need for a "central point of defence" of
the profession. The
Task Force reported in its initial findings that social workers
do not feel that their profession speaks with a strong
national voice or is well supported at national level. [
the profession is not felt to be setting standards for itself
and is, therefore, vulnerable to being 'done to' by Government
and others seeking reform. Some social workers look to Government-funded
regulatory or delivery bodies for this leadership, but do not
necessarily find it there.
Bridget Robb of the British Association of Social
Workers pointed out that there is no social work equivalent of
the Chief Medical Officer, and issues affecting social workers
are often subsumed under the general banners of social care (a
category including residential and home care workers, who often
train on the job), or children's services.
26. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for Children, Young People and Families, Baroness Morgan, told
us that there is a need for "a strong voice for social work",
making a comparison with health and teaching professional bodies
which help to promote knowledge about what those professions do.
However, she stated that "I don't necessarily see that we
are going to end up with one body that can do everything. I cannot
imagine that working, but I could imagine a system that is much
more clearly understood and that works much more effectively."
27. Asked which Government department takes the
lead on developing policy in this area, Baroness Morgan told us:
"The Task Force has been jointly established between DH and
DCSF. I work very closely with Phil Hope [Minister of State for
Care Services]. We have a shared interest in developing the social
work profession together. It is fair to say that we are, literally,
cheek by jowl on this."
Responsibility for universities passed in June 2009 to the newly-created
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
28. Nine years on from the tragedy
of Victoria Climbié, the lack of a coherent and prestigious
national profile for the social work profession appears to us
to be perhaps the most important failing of the Every Child
Matters reforms. It is unusual to hear so uniformly in evidence
to a Committee inquiry calls for greater centralisation, prescription
and national leadership. With responsibility for social work training
spread across three departments, we urge the Government to be
bold in establishing coherent leadership for the profession that
can take responsibility for all parts of the whole, and present
a profile distinct from the wider fields of social care and the
29. Streamlining of the national
sector bodies and rationalisation of their remits is an urgent
priority. We acknowledge that the Government is awaiting the recommendations
of the Task Force in this regard, but note that several reviews
of the relevant organisations have already been put in train,
and ask for clarification as to how these will affect each other.
We urge the Task Force to consider how one of the existing bodies
could be reformed to replicate the role and impact that the Training
and Development Agency has had in the teaching profession; a 'Social
Work Development Agency' should unite the functions of recruitment,
workforce development and funding and commissioning of training.
Such a body would replace the social work functions of the Children's
Workforce Development Council. It would operate alongside the
General Social Care Council which, in addition to its role as
workforce regulator, should be freed to act as champion and advocate
of the profession at national level.
30. The large increases in the numbers of students
applying to social work qualifying courses when the degrees were
introduced was a reversal of the trend in the immediately preceding
years, and is in itself a development to be celebrated.
However, the increases have not necessarily been evenly spread
across the country, meaning that in some areas too many graduates
are being produced for the available jobs, and in others too few.
The General Social Care Council's main preoccupation with regard
to training places is that they are available in the right parts
of the country. They point out that mature students, who make
up around 60% of the annual intake, are typically less mobile
and therefore need access to local courses.
31. Although the GSCC regulates degree courses,
it does not commission them or plan their provision; none of the
national sector bodies in fact perform this function. Universities
make individual decisions about whether to offer qualifying courses
in social work, decisions which are influenced by a wide range
of factors and the context of their own strategic business planning.
The London School of Economics is one of a small number of universities
that used to, but no longer, offer social work degrees. Dr Eileen
Munro told us this is because of the higher education performance
management regime, which "makes it very unattractive for
research-intensive universities to provide social work training".
The University and College Union drew attention to departmental
closures "in areas where social workers are sorely needed",
referring specifically to Reading University which took a decision
to close its School of Health & Social Care in March 2009,
despite opposition from local councils.
32. We asked the Minister, Baroness Morgan, what
the Government can do about universities electing to discontinue
their social work training. She responded that "What we can
do is to ensure that we are doing everything in our gift to attract
highly qualified, excellent degree graduates into the profession,
that we work hard generally to raise the status of the profession
through communication campaigns, that professionals doing the
work at the moment stay in the practice and become advanced practitioners."
33. While there have been high-profile cases
of universities ceasing to offer social work courses, others have
capitalised on the popularity of the courses amongst students.
There is some concern that this is principally a response to pressure
on course leaders from the management of institutions keen to
maximise income from social work student bursaries.
Bridget Robb of the British Association of Social Workers told
us that universities have come to look on social work as "a
cash cow"; "departments have been under great pressure
to take more and more students. [
] What is not taken account
of is the pressure that that puts on placements and the question
of whether people are then prepared and ready to enter the workforce".
John Barraclough of London Metropolitan University argued that
universities operate on a business model and there
is a constant tension between financial considerations and considerations
about the quality of recruitment processes, teaching and assessment.
It may be beneficial to consider if social work education should
be provided outside of the university sector [
] and consideration
should be given to providing protection for professional courses
from the vacillations of the economic realities in higher education
34. At present, decisions affecting the numbers
of student places, the supply of social workers into the workplace,
and the posts available are taken by many individual organisations.
This does not only have implications for the numbers of social
workers in the workforce; as discussed below, the expansion in
university training places appears to have outstripped the supply
of good quality, statutory sector practice placements.
However, any reduction of student numbers to ameliorate this situation
risks exacerbating recruitment problems in the short term.
35. In the absence of an overarching strategy,
employers have no means of influencing the numbers of students
taken on to social work courses, which deprives them of one possible
means of tackling the significant recruitment challenges they
face. A survey of
two-thirds of England's social services authorities in January
2009 revealed an average vacancy rate of 10.9%. London had the
highest vacancy rate at 18.6%, the North East the lowest at 6.5%.
The Local Government Association says that recruitment and retention
of social workers is a particular problem in children and families
teams. Despite this,
the GSCC has reported anecdotal evidence that some new graduates
are having difficulty finding jobs.
36. Lord Laming recommended that a national children's
social worker supply strategy be implemented to address recruitment
and retention issues.
Witnesses to our inquiry overwhelmingly agreed, and the Government
has accepted the recommendation in principle while awaiting the
views of the Social Work Task Force.
It was argued that national workforce planning needs to encompass
a mechanism to ensure that the provision of training places is
linked to professional recruitment shortages.
Jane Haywood, Chief Executive of the Children's Workforce Development
Council, explained that
We have chosen in this country for some parts of
the work forcefor example, teaching and medicineto
take very much a national planning approach. We have chosen not
to do that in social work. We have seen that as the responsibility
of individual employers. We might be coming to the point when
we have to think about whether that is sustainable for the long
37. Jane Haywood told us that while the CWDC
does track numbers of social workers, it has not been given "the
powers or the levers to then really take a hold of that and make
a whole workforce plan work". She added that there were several
organisations who could undertake this work, but the Government
needs to allocate the task to one of them.
Overall, the CWDC reported that "we have been struck in our
discussions with employers by the appetite for central direction
in relation to the recruitment, retention and development of the
social work workforce."
38. Effective workforce planning for social work
needs to take account of demography, levels of deprivation and
the characteristics of the local population.
At present no satisfactory method exists for modelling this on
a national scale. Mike Wardle, Chief Executive of the GSCC, explained
There is not a strong research base to understand
the factors that play into the question. In teaching we can set
a pupil-teacher ratio and you can say that with a given number
of pupils we know how many teachers we are going to need. [
In social work you first of all have to decide for any given population
how many social workers are the optimum number to be engaging
with the different types of social need and how the social needs
are likely to change given the economic situation or other factors
that we know have an effect. At the moment there is not the research
] So at the moment we are relying very much on individual
local authorities, as the major employer of social workers, to
take their own decisions about what they can afford and what they
think will work to deliver the services that they deliver to their
local populations. What there has not been is a coming together
of that experience and evidence from all over the country to say
there may well be an optimum position here that we could be working
39. High vacancies and retention
problems have plagued children and families social work for too
long. It is no longer tenable that there is no mechanism for employers
to influence the supply of graduates, and no national model for
estimating future demand. We recommend that the Government prioritise
the research necessary to establish such a model, link to it the
future funding and commissioning of training places for students,
and explicitly allocate the task of workforce planning to one
of the sector bodies.
40. There should be a mechanism
for retaining funding for social work training places when universities
cease to offer these courses. Funding for social work training
should be allocated by a social work organisationsuch as
the 'Social Work Development Agency' which we have proposedwhich
commissions places on the basis of quality assessments and workforce
8 Ev 125. Throughout the inquiry we made frequent comparisons
to the teaching profession, which has a very much larger workforce;
over half a million teachers are registered with the General Teaching
Council for England. Back
Ev 50 Back
GSCC, Raising Standards: social work education in England 2007-08
(February 2009) Back
Community Care, 13 November 2008 Back
GSCC, Raising standards (February 2009), paras 10-11 Back
GSCC, Raising standards (February 2009), para 12 Back
GSCC, Raising standards (February 2009), para 13 Back
Ev 125 Back
Ev 1 Back
Ev 124 Back
Department for Children, Schools and Families, The Protection
of Children in England: action plan, The Government's Response
to Lord Laming, Cm 7589 (May 2009), para 85 Back
Ev 129 Back
Ev 126 Back
'Career changers asked to take on new challenge and help some
of society's most vulnerable young people', Department for Children,
Schools and Families press notice 2009/0130, 9 July 2009 Back
Q 17 Back
Q 22 Back
Ev 54, 191, 104; see below, para 150. Back
Ev 47 Back
Q 107 Back
Qq 3-4 [Andrew Webb], 107 [Rosie Varley], 218 [Bruce Clark, Rita
Krishna], 268-9 [Sue Berelowitz] Back
First Report of the Social Work Task Force, 5 May 2009;
see also Ev 184. Back
GSCC, Raising standards (February 2009), para 29 Back
Ev 88; Q 203 Back
Ev 198 Back
Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2020 Children
and Young People's Workforce Strategy (December 2008), para
Community Care, 17 September 2008 Back
Ev 199 Back
Q 4 Back
First Report of the Social Work Task Force, 5 May 2009 Back
Q 67 Back
Q 292 Back
Q 297 Back
Q 317 Back
Q 85 Back
Ev 29-30 Back
Q 99 [Mike Wardle]; see also Ev 144-5. Back
Ev 46-7; Q 99 [Mike Wardle] Back
Q 142; see also Q 44 and Ev 144-5. Back
Ev 144 Back
Q 293 Back
Ev 46-7; see also Q 86 [Professor White]. Back
Q 43 Back
Ev 152 Back
Q 106 [Keith Brumfitt] Back
Qq 23, 43 Back
Q 276 Back
Ev 86, 199-201 Back
'Highest vacancy rate in London boroughs', Community Care,
15 April 2009 Back
'LGA: Child social work is councils' biggest recruitment headache',
Community Care, 10 December 2008 Back
GSCC, Raising standards (February 2009), para 42 Back
Lord Laming, The Protection of Children in England: a progress
report HC 330 (March 2009), paras 5.5-6 Back
Qq 61, 103 [Mike Wardle], 295 Back
Q 96 [Rosie Varley]; Ev 28, 30, 199-201 Back
Q 106 Back
Q 108 Back
Ev 47 Back
Q 103 [Mike Wardle] Back
Q 106 Back