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Guidance on raising a concern about a social work course

Raising a concern about a social work course

Last updated: 26 November 2019


About this guidance

This guidance provides information about how Social Work England will process concerns raised about the quality of approved social work courses, initial education and training, qualifications, tests of knowledge of English, and best interests assessors (BIAs) and approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) courses.

For the purpose of this guidance, we refer to this process of bringing an issue to our attention as ‘raising a concern’. This guidance has been written for anyone who may want to raise a concern. This includes:

  • course applicants
  • students
  • people with lived experience of social work
  • placement or course providers (including anyone involved in supporting or delivering the course)

Language

In our rules, we describe course providers as ‘relevant institutions’ and we use this term throughout this guidance. Throughout this guidance ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ refers to Social Work England. ‘You’ refers to the body, individual or group who wants to raise a concern about a course.

We use words such as ‘should’, ‘may’ or ‘could’ in this guidance to make recommendations or to advise on what you can usually expect from our process.


Our standards

Our education and training standards set out the requirements we expect approved social work courses to meet. If you have a concern about a course meeting these standards you can raise it with us.


Things to consider

What we can investigate

Our legal, regulatory powers allow us to investigate concerns about social work courses. We can investigate concerns about any approved course and how a course is meeting our standards.

In response to a concern, we can require relevant institutions to review their course provision, policies, and processes if we find that an approved course is no longer meeting our standards.

When to raise a concern

Before raising a concern with us, you should raise it with the relevant institution to give them the opportunity to resolve the concern locally. If you’re a student, we recommend that you start with the complaints and appeals process available for your course.

In order to meet our standards, our approved courses must have a thorough and effective complaints and appeals process for students. Unless you feel there is an urgent issue that could affect how a course meets our standards, we recommend that you wait until this process is concluded before raising your concern with us.

An urgent issue might be, for example, if there is a sudden change to the curriculum or you are unable to undertake a statutory placement. If you are unsure or want further guidance about your concern, you should contact us by sending an email to [email protected].

Our limitations

We are not able to investigate a concern if it doesn’t relate to how a course meets our standards or if it’s not an approved social work, best interests assessor or approved mental health professional course. We are not able make decisions about individual outcomes for the person raising the concern.

For example, if you’re a student unhappy with your assessment outcome, you should consider if we’re the appropriate body to raise your concern with. We cannot change the decision of local complaints or appeals processes. Our powers are limited to investigating whether or not a course meets our standards.


How to raise a concern

You can contact us by sending an email to [email protected]. You should provide the following information:

  • Contact details including your name, email address and phone number
  • Details of the course you are raising a concern about
  • A brief overview of your concerns
  • Anything else you think would be useful for us to be aware of at this stage

Please bear in mind that our process for raising a concern is not anonymous. This allows us to keep in touch with you throughout the process and conduct a thorough investigation.


Our process

Your concern

When you raise a concern, we will review it and will usually contact you within 2 working days. A member of our education quality assurance team will discuss the details of your concern and agree the next steps. This will give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the process and to discuss whether we are the most appropriate body to raise your concern with.

We may decide at this stage that we are unable to investigate your concern. All concerns will be considered on a case by case basis.

Our officers

An officer will be assigned to your concern and will be your main point of contact throughout the process. They will work with our inspectors to investigate your concern. The officer will send you a form to complete to help you to provide further information and evidence about your concern. We will also let you know how we’d like to receive your evidence and by what date.

We will make a decision about how we are going to progress your concern and let you know our decision within 14 calendar days.

The investigation

If we decide to investigate and are satisfied that we have all the evidence we need to proceed, the officer will pass your concern to the relevant institution and give them 28 calendar days to respond.

At this stage we will assign the relevant inspectors. Once we receive a response from the relevant institution, the inspectors and officer will review the information and evidence provided. They will discuss their findings and conclusions and then make a recommendation about your concern. Normally, this will be done within 28 calendar days.

We will then give you and the relevant institution 10 working days to provide any comments on our recommendation. Your comments will be reviewed before we finalise our report.

After the investigation

The inspectors and officer will make a recommendation which will be considered when reaching our decision. The recommendations will be to either take no further action or carry out an extraordinary inspection. We will contact you and let you know what decision we have made and if we are going to take any further.


Further information

We’ll continue to review and develop our guidance documents and forms as we move towards the implementation of our 2021 education and training standards.