Children’s social workers face knowledge test
New children’s social workers will have to pass a test of their knowledge in order to become an approved practitioner as part of government attempts to improve the quality of the profession, it has been announced.
The test will be based on a range of skills that social workers will be expected to know, as set out in a Knowledge and Skills Statement created by the chief social worker for children, Isabelle Trowler.
The government has said that the statement, which is in direct response to concerns raised by government adviser Sir Martin Narey about the standard of social workers’ skills, will act as the cornerstone in the drive to overhaul the training of the profession.
The statement, in its proposed form, sets out a range of requirements, including that children’s social workers should be able identify the full range of risks to children, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and that they should know how to protect children.
They should also be able to support families by “strengthening their relationships, resilience and access to resources”.
Following graduation, newly qualified social workers will be required to complete a “rigorous” pass or fail test based on the knowledge and skills outlined in the statement in order to gain an “approved child and family practitioner” status.
The Knowledge and Skills statement will be subject to public consultation for 10 weeks.
Trowler said she is determined to ensure the profession earns the public’s “respect and confidence”.
“Having absolute clarity about what a social worker needs to know and be able to do and testing that knowledge and skill against a national standard is a critical part of this ambition,” she added.
Children’s minister Edward Timpson, said: “These new measures will help set social work on a whole new path to success – setting the very highest standards for social workers providing greater assurance to the public and most importantly ensuring the very best for our children.”
The measures follow the publication in February of Sir Martin Narey’s review into the education of social workers, which called for greater rigour in training, a sharper focus on practical skills and places for only the very best students.
In his report Narey called for a single skills list that would be the basis for all social work curricula – stating that the current absence of one means courses vary widely in quality.
Narey said it was possibly the most important of his recommendations.
“Isabelle Trowler started work on this immediately my report was published and the statement reflects discussions with practitioners, academics and others,” he said.
“I think it has the potential significantly to improve the capacity and confidence of newly qualified social workers and I hope that the response to the consultation is constructive and prolific.”
The government has also announced it will fund a third year of a support programme for child and family social workers in their first assessed year in employment, aimed at developing their skills and improving their confidence in dealing with the most difficult and complex cases.
Dave Hill, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) workforce development committee, said:
“The draft document has been informed by over 950 front line child and family social workers, and builds on the recommendations of the Social Work Taskforce, that ADCS has long supported, in particular a ‘License to Practice’, which has been re-visited in the consultation document.
“Clarification on the skills and knowledge required to undertake high quality social work with children and families is particularly helpful at a time of significant change in the landscape of children’s services.
“ADCS also welcomes the extension of funding for the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment, which will enable local authorities to continue to further support newly qualified social workers as they make the transition from education into employment.”
Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the National Children’s Bureau said the skills document will help ensure that all social workers have the right training, skills and support.
“Being a social worker is extremely demanding and the chief social worker quite rightly wants to improve the ability of newly qualified staff so they are equipped to do the best possible job,” he added.