Comment: Study of fast-track social work programmes

Commenting on initial findings from a study of fast-track child and family social work programmes Rachael Wardell, Chair of the ADCS Workforce Development Policy Committee, said:

“This interim report provides us with initial findings from the first two years of a study into the long-term outcomes of graduates from two fast track routes into child and family social work; the Frontline and Step Up to Social Work programmes. There are some valuable insights that we can take away from this phase of the study including how well-prepared respondents felt they were for practice, job satisfaction and their reasons for leaving the profession. It is encouraging to see that intrinsic job satisfaction was high for graduates across both programmes because we know this is fundamental to retention, however, it is concerning that satisfaction with things like hours of work and public view of social work was lower. Each and every day social workers are making a huge difference in the lives of children and families but these good news stories go unheard to protect the privacy of those we work with. The vital role of social work is often overlooked and there is still much more work to do to improve the public perception of the profession. Local authorities are doing innovative work to improve the recruitment and retention of social workers but a national recruitment and retention campaign which tackles longstanding stereotypes head on and clearly articulates that good social work can, and does change lives would undoubtedly help with this.

“We know that stable teams can make a real difference to the families they work with, through building relationships, so an important measure of the long-term success of the two programmes is how long its graduates remain in the profession. The report found that the attrition rate for Step Up cohort four social workers was 11% 18 months after qualifying, and after three years 29% of Frontline cohort one had left statutory social work. Making like for like comparisons between the these programmes and mainstream routes into the profession is difficult due to data limitations, therefore, little can be deduced from these findings in terms of whether there are any obvious differences between how long people coming through fast track routes versus mainstream routes stay in the profession. However, the report does state the final report in 2021 may allow for some comparisons to be made.

“There is no ‘best’ or ‘better’ route into the social work profession; these programmes are a welcome part of a mixed range of provision aiming to raise standards across the whole system and Social Work England has a key role in ensuring that education qualifying standards are suitable for practice. It is vital that the programmes build on the broad range of routes available such as our local universities, teaching partnerships and work-based learning to attract more people who will be well-suited to the profession. In the current context, we know the effects of the pandemic will be felt by children and the services they rely on for a long time, it is therefore more important than ever that we are preparing newly qualified social workers to support families now and in the future and that children’s services get the financial support we need to provide the full range of services children and families rely on. It does not matter how a person came into the profession if they have the determination and commitment to making a positive difference and the necessary skills and are properly supported to do the job well.”

ENDS



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