I have recently completed an audit and evaluation of the impact of the post qualifying (PQ) awards for social work practice across six London boroughs. The research was commissioned by Skills for Care London on behalf of the Social Work Development Partnership
Following consultation with a number of stakeholders we developed two online surveys. Staff with responsibility for post qualifying education and practice learning (PQ Leads) were asked for their views and the support they needed to promote the post qualifying framework. Social workers who had completed a post qualifying module or award were asked about their motivations, the support offered by their employers, the benefits and their experiences of studying for a post qualifying award.
Although it was small scale research project the findings are significant for employers, social workers, HR, Workforce Development and Learning and Development teams. There are key messages for the Social Work Reform Board and the Munro Review of child protection: Better frontline services to protect children.
The PQ awards are highly valued by social workers who believe that they are more skilled, confident and reflective practitioners as a result of undertaking PQ study. Overall the majority of respondents felt that post qualifying training in their organisations was important or essential 47.5% of social workers believed that post qualifying training for social workers is very important and 18.7% stated that it is absolutely essential.
73.7% of social workers believe that there has been a direct impact upon their work with service users as a result of undertaking a post qualifying award. There was a particular focus on the importance of being able to reflect on practice and reaffirm the importance of social work values when working in multi-disciplinary settings.
Promoting, supporting and recognising the value of PQ learning is a valuable recruitment and retention strategy. Social workers in the survey placed a great deal of importance on their professional development and career advancement. Currently most local authorities do not have a career grade for advanced social work practitioners. The majority of responses indicated that the PQ framework is not embedded within a social work career pathway or linked with career development.
Career progression and advancement is an area for development by local authorities to provide career pathways and develop a strategic approach to the recruitment and retention of social work staff. Local authorities who have developed a framework for career progression, which links with the post qualifying awards, could be promoted as exemplars of good practice.
There is an important link between the PQ awards and practice learning. 62% of those undertaking a PQ award had supervised a student. At a time when we need to ensure that high quality statutory placements are available the PQ awards have an important role to play in ensuring best practice standards are maintained.
Local authorities who have a dedicated lead for practice learning and the post qualifying awards are in a stronger position to contribute to the wider workforce agenda which includes the development of the InLaws framework and for children’s services implementing the One Children’s Workforce Tool.
Skills for Care London have developed a range of support materials and and resources. These include the Post Qualifying and Practice Learning Bulletin, the London Directory of Post Qualifying Programmes, the PQ Employers Guide to the PQ Framework and PQ case studies.
Sharing learning and knowledge is an important employer benefit for post qualifying education. The research indicated that PQ award holders have been involved in the development of policy within their organisation, writing for professional publications, running workshops, presenting at conferences and shared their learning with students to embed good practice within their organisations.
Can employers afford to ignore the return on investment of improving social work practice through the post qualifying awards?
Download the report Evaluating the impact of the PQ awards and find out about the Key Messages for the Social Work Reform Board
Shirley Ayres Consulting specialise in impact audits and communication strategies linked to demonstrable outcomes. Contact email@example.com to discuss how we can help you to evaluate and communicate the benefits of the services your organisation delivers.