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An update for students and education providers

A statement to social work students and education providers delivering social work courses.

Further information for students and education providers in regard to COVID-19.

1/14/2021 4:15:18 PM

As the specialist regulator for social workers and social work courses in England, we recognise COVID-19’s impact on students and education providers. The ongoing pandemic must not prevent student social workers from gaining the skills and experience they need to meet the professional standards and join such a vital profession.

Our role is to protect the public. That means that our next generation of social workers must have the very best teaching, training and practice experience through placements so they can practise to the very highest standards.

Students and education providers have been asking for clarity on how government guidance impacts them alongside additional guidance on some of the current challenges they are facing during new lockdown restrictions.

The extent and impact of these challenges across the country are evolving and are not within our gift to solve. However, what we can do in our role as regulator is bring the sector together to better understand and highlight their impact. We have been engaging with a range of stakeholders, including chief social workers, the Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care, Skills for Care, the Joint University Council's Social Work Education Committee (JUCSWEC), the Principal Social Worker network, the Association of Professors of Social Work, higher education institutes and members of our education and training advisory forum, to discuss some of the key and current issues and which we provide an update on below.

Placements

We have always advocated that placements are an essential part of social work education. Social work by its very nature is based on human relationships and students must have the opportunity to put their learning into practice in real-life situations to build skills and confidence for the role.  

In previous advice during the early phases of COVID-19 we said that education providers can consider a reduction in the number of placement days. Education providers must ensure that students meet our standards at the point they wish to apply to join the register, and so any consideration of adjustments should ensure that the standards can still be met.

Education providers, working with practice educators, employers and students may decide if placements in their area should be suspended or adapted. We have been impressed by the flexibility and innovation of many course providers and would encourage them to share what’s working with local partnerships. Please also continue to email examples of good practice to our education quality assurance team to share nationally on our website.

Students with any questions or concerns about placements should speak to their education providers in the first instance. The experience of students on placements will be varied across the country. We are keen to build up as complete a picture as possible and welcome feedback from students on their placement experience. Please email the education quality assurance team to access a survey to provide feedback.

In the coming months we will be looking to engage more formally with students and will provide more information on this on our website in due course.

Vaccinations

We have recently written to the Department for Education (DfE) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) asking for clarification on social workers and their priority status in relation to COVID-19 vaccines. There appears to be ambiguity in the Government guidance and different situations across the country because of this.

The guidance currently states that all social care staff who have close personal contact with people who are clinically vulnerable are eligible for the vaccine, but it is our view that all social workers, including student social workers who are on placement, should have the same priority as those in close personal contact with people who are clinically vulnerable. We understand that discussions are ongoing, and that decisions related to vaccinating priority workforce groups are made locally. We recommend that students and education providers speak to their local authority, each of which should have a dedicated vaccine lead.

Key workers

Social work students continue to be recognised by the DfE and the DHSC as key workers supporting the national response to COVID-19. They may need to ask their education provider for evidence of this to access services like childcare places. Providers should be able to send students a letter or email confirming their key worker status.

Assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE)

The ASYE is intended to provide a year of support and assessment for newly qualified social workers. We are continuing to engage with the Departments and Skills for Care on ASYE to ensure newly qualified social workers get the support required as they transition from social work student to qualified practitioner during the pandemic.

Additional information

As this situation continues to be so fast moving, we’ll continue to monitor the queries that come in and provide updates where possible.

For education providers looking for additional guidance, our education quality assurance officers are more than happy to discuss further with you.

Finally, we continue to wish all students well in their studies during this challenging time.

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