On Probation


In some unsurprising but still welcome news, Community Care reports that the Social Work Taskforce is proposing a ‘qualifying year’ post degree and pre-registration to all social workers coming into the workforce from university.

It makes perfect sense and it’s amazing that it was not a check that was brought in with the new degrees which placed less emphasis on pre-qualification experience in the social care sector.

It is a useful and necessary check that does not leave the universities as sole arbiters as to whether a student is ‘good enough’ to practice as a qualified social worker.

I will, of course, be interested to see details about how the application process works for these ‘qualifying years’ and how the local authorities engage with the it. Hopefully, it will offer newly trained social workers a chance and opportunity to learn and grow as practitioners in a safer environment than being thrown straight into practice. I know I’d definitely have benefited from it although I was lucky to move straight into a supportive and large team with other newly qualified workers including others from the same university course – perhaps that made it a lot easier to ask questions and learn from each other as we went. I think it might have been more challenging in an environment where asking questions and supervision was not given appropriate time and consideration.

Looking at the people I qualified with (those that I remained in touch with!) – those of us who had the more supportive first employment experiences have certainly stayed ‘in the field’ a lot longer than those who were ‘thrown into the deep end’ regardless of pre-qualification experience. Even without my very random personal experiences, it makes most sense that the better supported newly qualified staff are, the more effective the profession will become over the next few years.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to the publication of the final report from the Taskforce – due early December according to the same Community Care report.

2 thoughts on “On Probation

  1. I agree. As an unqualified Care Manager I did witness newly qualified Social Workers being thrust in at the deep-end. Admitedly that wasn’t the plan, but then staff shortages kicked in and destroyed any notion of nurturing. I haven’t done the degree myself so am not really qualified to speak about it’s merits and disadvantages but things I heard did alarm me. One newly qualified worker, handed responsibility for safeguarding confided in me that they had not covered anything on safeguarding adults as part of their degree.

    I think that in general LAs really need to look at their workforce development strategies. In my old authourity staff were contracted for one post, meaning they couldn’t move teams without going through the application process even for the same role. One colleague had to go through this just to move up a floor. In terms of staff development all this was horrendous, all teams face different challenges and some – dare I say it are even backwaters, but in not being able to move easily some staff burn-out, others lose, or just don’t develop skills. Employing people on a more holistic basis loosens these barriers. I’m thinking here of the Dutch ‘total football’ system where players in their development spend time in each position with the affect of becoming more complete players. A more flexible recruitment policy would surely allow NQs to move through an organisation, developing skills as they go without being exposed to team based pressures in the first year of practice.

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