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Regulator announces new approach to ensure social work students are fully equipped to practice

A new approach to social work education to ensure that new social workers are fully equipped for their new role has been unveiled by Social Work England.

The regulator said the vision  is for all social workers to qualify equipped with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to meet the professional standards, demonstrate the values of the profession, register to use the protected title of social worker and practise safely and effectively.

Sarah Blackmore, executive director of professional practice and external engagement at Social Work England, said: “Our new approach to social work education and training sets out the areas we will focus on to have the most impact on preparing new social workers for their important roles. Our aim is to reduce complexity and provide stability, clarity and consistency for social work educators, students and employers. We will work with the sector in making these changes and the activity we have set out will likely span the breadth of our next 3-year corporate cycle as we enter our next phase of specialist regulation.

“We see many excellent education providers boosting the workforce with talented new social workers. Our plans will ensure all graduates have an absolutely clear understanding of the values underpinning social work before they start work. This is essential to improve the public’s confidence in newly qualified social workers and the profession as a whole.”

Social Work England has launched the first public consultation on the creation of new guidance for ‘readiness for professional practice,’ which asks for views on the knowledge, skills and behaviours that social work students should be able to demonstrate by the end of their qualifying course.

Education providers, students, people with lived experience and employers are able to comment by attending a consultation event or giving their views online by Wednesday 21 September.

The regulator’s focus in its 2023 to 2026 corporate strategy will be on education. Whilst the initial focus is on readiness for professional practice, in the long-term Social Work England will speak to the public, profession, educators, students and people with lived experience of social work about proposals in several key areas, including:

  • Developing a closer relationship with practice educators, assuring their training, supporting their practice, and ensuring the ongoing suitability and competence of social workers who take on this role.
  • Reviewing the education and training standards and supporting guidance, including guidance on practice placements.
  • Understanding how the regulator’s requirements for upholding safe and effective practice relate to social workers involved in training and educating the next generations of social workers.
  • Considering whether registration of social work students would be a proportionate measure to uphold public protection.
  • Considering the most proportionate and effective approach to supporting newly qualified social workers and ensuring they practise safely in a supported environment.

Social Work England has stressed that it is keen to maintain the high levels of innovation in social work education and is not looking to create one uniform curriculum. It will publicly consult on all these areas over the next three years and is committed to working closely with everyone involved in the education and training of social workers to deliver the approach.

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