Posts Tagged ‘scie’

Radical proposals in the new health White Paper

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The White Paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’ published yesterday reveal that power will be devolved from Whitehall to patients and professionals.

Patients will get more choice and control, backed by an information revolution. Services will be more responsive to patients and designed around them, rather than patients having to fit around services.  The principle will be “no decisions about me without me”. 

Under the new plans, patients will be able to choose which GP practice they register with, regardless of where they live, and choose between consultant-led teams.  More comprehensive and transparent information, such as patients’ own ratings, will help them make these choices together with healthcare professionals.

Local authorities will be given statutory responsibility for bringing health and social care together under the radical NHS reforms announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley. It is planned that primary care trusts and strategic health authorities will be abolished by 2013.

The health White Paper aims to create the largest social enterprise sector in the world by increasing the freedoms of foundation trusts and giving NHS staff the opportunity to have a greater say in the future of their organisations, including as employee-led social enterprises.

Consortia of GP practices will take on responsibility for commissioning most health services from PCTs while councils will take on PCTs’ public health functions and be charged with leading the integration of health and social care locally. GP consortia will commission most health services with a few exceptions, including dentistry, community pharmacy and large-scale specialist services.

The government also announced a wide-ranging review of health and social care regulation with a view towards significantly reducing the burdens on commissioners and providers.

The health White Paper will mean a change in the role of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), with some of its functions in promoting and disseminating good practice in social care being transferred to a strengthened National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice). The White Paper states that  “The Health Bill will put NICE on a firmer statutory footing, securing its independence and core functions and extending its remit to social care”.

Closer integration of social care and health has been on every government agenda for many years. Putting People First and the Children’s Trusts have actively encouraged collaboration and partnerships. I hope that these radical proposals will build upon the many excellent examples of integrated working already in place which include the private and third sector. I am particularly concerned that the invaluable and innovative elearning developed by SCIE for the care sector over a number of years is maintained and further developed.  

The health White Paper is the start of an extensive consultation that will take place over the coming weeks.  The Department of Health will shortly be publishing a number of consultation documents to seek views on the more detailed proposals.

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Shape the new College and build a strong voice for social work

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

The official launch of the College of Social Work took place today at Community Care Live. Moira Gibb welcomed the new College as “An opportunity for social work to gain the authoritative and influential professional voice it deserves”

Social workers and people who use social work services are today being encouraged to shape The College of Social Work by taking part in a UK-wide consultation. You can join the online consultation on the College website. Events are also being organised in several regions in England. A total of 22 consultation sessions will be held; twelve events for social work practitioners and managers and ten for users of social work services and carers.

The College of Social Work will start functioning in the coming months; at present the College Development Group is ensuring that those vital contributions are being captured and given to the Interim Board of the College once it is established. The Development Group is overseeing the consultation, which starts today and runs until October.

The College Development Group Chair, Allan Bowman, stated that

“We’ve been looking forward to today because it’s when The College’s work can really begin. We need the input of social workers, people who use social work services and their carers. Their views will shape the way the College is run. We encourage everyone with views to come forward, either at the large number of events organised so that people can discuss their views, or they can go online and help shape their College.”

Some of the issues that can be discussed in the consultation include:

  • Membership
  • Purpose,  functions and activities
  • Working with employers, regulators, and unions
  • Continuing professional development

Through these consultation activities it is hoped that a shared understanding of the purpose and key objectives of the College will be developed, built on the direct contribution of social workers and the people who use social work services. The consultation process will also ensure that the design and plans for the College will meet needs of the profession now and in the future.

Welcoming the College Moira Gibb, Chair of the Social Work Reform Board said:

“A College of Social Work is an opportunity for social work to gain the authoritative and influential professional voice it deserves. It is important that from the outset the College speaks for the breadth of the profession and represents the views of all social workers. This consultation is a major opportunity for the whole sector to set the direction and control the future of the College. I urge all social workers, and those engaged with social work, to take this chance to help shape the future of our profession.”

The College is clear that it wants to have the input of everyone involved from across the UK and that it will cover all aspects of social work.

The College of Social Work website

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SCIE publish an updated edition of Personalisation: a rough guide

Monday, May 17th, 2010

SCIE have recently updated this excellent free guide to Personalisation which is also available in Easy Read format. I believe that everyone involved in adult social care should have their own reference copy. It is a credit to SCIE that the guide can be ordered as a printed book. Whilst I am all for the paperless office there are some essential publications that do need to be available in hard back.

This publication aims to tell the story so far about the personalisation of adult social care services. It is intended to set out our current understanding of personalisation and its implementation, exploring what personalisation is, where the idea came from and placing the transformation of adult social care in the wider public service reform agenda.

The report contains the following key messages and recommendations:
By identifying and transferring knowledge about good practice, SCIE has a special role to play in transforming adult social care services.
Person-centred planning and self-directed support will need to become mainstream
It will ultimately mean universal services such as transport, housing and education are accessible to all citizens.
The personalised system will need to be cost-effective and sustainable in the long term.
Approaches to early intervention and prevention need to develop further so that people are encouraged to stay healthy and independent.
The social care workforce will need to acquire new skills.

This guide is aimed at frontline practitioners and first-line managers in statutory, voluntary and independent sector social care services, although it is an indispensable summary for all those interested in this important area.

Published: October 2008, Updated: April 2010

SCIE Personalisation: a rough guide By Sarah Carr Order your copy now

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Social Care TV now online

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

scie logoGet the picture with Social Care TV. An online channel for everyone involved in the social care and social work sector.

“Personalisation enables me to do the things that I took for granted for so long. My personal assistants help me to achieve my independence. Managing my own budget means that I can go to concerts, for instance at the English National Opera. I feel like I’m part of the world to which I once belonged.” Stephen Page, on Social Care TV.

It’s not always easy to explain what social care is, and Social Care TV, aims to stimulate debate about the big issues in the sector. Social Care TV programmes bring real world examples to social care staff, managers, commissioners and trainers.

This is the first time that social care has had its own TV service. Films are ‘on demand’ so they can be watched in the workplace, the training room or at home. But there aren’t just films; each web page also includes lots of guidance and advice, multimedia and e-learning resources. Social Care TV can be used as a training and learning tool; it aims to understand the needs of people who use services, by presenting real life stories and linking these to easy-to-use resources, giving staff a better understanding of good practice.

Ann Macfarlane is featured on Social Care TV. Ann now works as a social care consultant but she spent the first twenty-five years of her life in residential settings and hospitals. She says this about the film which shows how she has succeeded to change her life because of personalisation:

“It makes me proud about my achievements. I was brought up in a place where other children were dying in front of me. I didn’t have a childhood and so I feel like I’ve been making up for borrowed time. The film shows that I now live at home, run my own consultancy business and crucially, have choice, voice and control. I’m sure this film will help the workforce to do a better job and understand the role that they have to play.”

The project is run by The Social Care Institute for Excellence and has a number of innovative features. 

• You can watch the films, but you can also download them from the site into presentations for training
• You can watch segments of films. You can go to a specific point of a film to address a key issue in social care practice.
• You can email a film or just a segment of a film to a colleague, making the sharing of good practice very efficient
• Users won’t just see a film on a site. There are useful text and links to specialist areas. 

SCIE Chief Executive Julie Jones says:

“The films bring to life what we do every day in our work. The social care workforce is in for a treat. Along with the accompanying care and support information on the web pages, the films are thought-provoking, interesting and full of strong messages about delivering good quality, personalised social care.”

Watch Social Care TV now

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Knowledge Management in Social Care – time to embrace the internet?

Friday, January 29th, 2010

manager imageThe internet revolution has transformed the way in which research and professional knowledge can be accessed and used to enhance social work practice and social care services.

But how far has this changed the experiences and perceptions of front-line adult social care staff in relation to research mindedness and professional development in its broadest sense? What are the aspirations of social care staff, and how can employers and managers encourage and support the development of a learning culture within their organisations?

A recent on-line survey of one local authority adult social care workforce highlighted some key issues. This was followed up by two focus groups where a mix of staff from different services discussed the issues raised by the survey in more depth.

Making use of internet resources

The use of the internet was clearly seen as an invaluable source of information for social workers and social care staff – almost equal to training in importance. However knowledge about what’s available via the internet was very variable, and staff didn’t feel supported to spend time exploring this medium. Even in computer dependent field work settings, surfing the net can be seen as a diversion from ‘real’ work. Management fears about social workers accessing Facebook or Ebay instead of completing on-line client records may be one factor. It was also suggested that peer pressure discouraged the use of the internet, especially in direct social care services where access to computers is more limited and culturally there’s a premium on time spent with service users as against office based working.

Discussion in the focus groups highlighted the huge potential for making use of internet resources – if only this could be filtered for relevance so that front-line staff could be directed to information of value as and when they needed it. Certain websites were recommended for easy access to the information needed, whereas others were found to be frustrating to navigate and not particularly helpful. There was a sense that greater access to internet research helped broaden people’s perspectives and increased their focus on outcomes rather than process – surely a critical factor in progress towards personalisation.

Whole team learning

There were a range of ideas about how to focus in on ‘whole team’ learning, rather than the ‘scattergun approach’ to sending individual workers off on training courses.

“Staggered training causes problems with agency cover and it could take a year to have all staff trained on for instance Mental Capacity Act so we are not all working to the same agenda.”

Allocating research and learning tasks within the team were also seen as a positive way forward, with team members presenting information as a basis for team discussions at regular intervals. This would also help to challenge the culture of not being ‘allowed’ to be seen to do internet research.

Another suggestion was that a greater emphasis on the learning and development of team managers would set a tone within the organisation which valued professional progression and training for all staff. Other ideas included the use of ‘information champions’ and more use of external training opportunities.

“I think it would help if we had information champions, people who could be freed up from their work duties to spend time researching specific subjects to pass on to colleagues so that a more thorough overview could be cascaded to work teams”

“I think seminars/workshops would be good.  Funding is an issue, but we need to consider external courses to develop staff.”

Research mindedness

Of those responding to the on-line survey and attending the focus groups, most were clearly committed to learning and professional development, and there was a high level of interest in doing research. However there was a lack of knowledge about  research done by colleagues, and little understanding of developments such as the Research Governance Framework introduced to local authorities some two years ago.

While there were individual stories about the role of research evidence helping to inform policies, strategies and direct work with service users, the idea that this was now the cultural norm within social care remained unconvincing.

“Research is generally done by managers, practitioners are too caught up with the day to day … behind the advice and discussion there is research knowledge – I’m guessing here ….”


The Continuing Professional Development strategy and framework[1] developed by Skills for Care, the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) and other partner agencies is intended to mean changes on the frontline of service delivery. Some very practical steps need to be found to effectively integrate the three critical areas of internet resources, whole team learning and research mindedness identified in this study. This will only be possible when underpinned by determination to support the growth of organisational learning cultures in the arena of professional social care.

About the author Carolyn Barber, BSc (Hons), CQSW, is an independent consultant specialising in research, team development and management skills.  Carolyn has over 25 years experience in social care as practitioner, trainer, researcher and manager, working across public, voluntary and independent sectors. For more information, go to .


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Can Gerry Robinson fix Dementia Care Homes?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

gerry_robinson_presser_oct09-150x150A very timely BBC 2 documentary in which businessman Gerry Robinson explores what can be done to help improve services within care homes dedicated to looking after people with dementia.  I have always found Gerry Robinson’s  approach thoughtful and probing and I am delighted he is exploring an area of care which both requires and deserves more scrutiny. If you work in this area or are faced with making a decision about finding care for a person with dementia I recommend that you watch this programme which is available for the next seven days on BBC iplayer.

The Alzheimer’s Society states that ‘In less than two generations one in three of us will either have dementia ourselves or be related to, or caring for, a person with dementia.’ The significance of this statistic and the implications for society require a transformation of perceptions and strategies. One of the biggest challenges facing society today is the funding and care of older people, a growing number of whom will have dementia. 

“We are in the dark ages of dementia care”, “Keeping people alive rather than helping them to live”, “dementia farms” and “granny warehousing” some of the terms used in the programme to describe current provision. Shameful comments about how we treat some of the most vulnerable people in society but does it have to be like this? One of the major challenges with ¼ million people in dementia care homes is that they are mostly paid for out of public funds but run by private companies. 

Should we be shocked that anyone can buy a care home provided they have the money, do not have a criminal record and can demonstrate that they are suitable to be a “registered person” with the Care Quality Commission?  Yes the services are regulated but there are no minimum standards in terms of the specialist dementia knowledge and skills required. It would appear that homes are judged on their capacity to manage risk rather than the fundamentals of care which can leave residents spending hours just staring at the walls.

“Life could be so much better” is the conclusion from the first programme. It is not that complicated to make a difference: staff who feel valued and have additional training in understanding dementia, one to one contact and encouraging the involvement of family and friends and involving residents in the running of the home all create a more positive and rich experience. 

When my mother had dementia we were fortunate in finding an excellent home. I would have no hesitation in recommending Lakeside Nursing Home  SE19 2DR. The manager is passionate about ensuring that dignity and respect underpin the quality of care provided. The ethos of the home centres on the recognition of the individuality of the resident and the importance of actively involving friends and families.

When looking for a residential care home I always advise people to start by reading the latest report and quality ratings from the Care Quality Commission which provides a number of useful indicators. There is a big question about whether any of us would want to place a vulnerable person in a dementia home with a rating of poor or adequate and should local authorities even be suggesting this as an option?
The Social Care Institute for Excellence has an excellent online resource in the Dementia Gateway if you work with people with dementia in nursing, residential or domiciliary settings. There are lots of practical tips, tools and activities in the sections below that will help you with your daily work. Each section has been written by a national dementia expert so you can be sure the information and guidance is up to date and reflects what we know about best practices in dementia care. Another section lists Useful Dementia Resources where you can find out more about dementia, research studies, reports and policies, resources for people with dementia, carers and professionals

What training is provided for staff is an important question to ask when considering a dementia care home placement. Encouragingly there are a lot of training programmes available to address the skills and knowledge gaps identified by Gerry Robinson.

The Open Dementia e-Learning Programme is aimed at anyone who comes into contact with someone with dementia and provides a general introduction to the disease and the experience of living with dementia. This programme is designed to be accessible to a wide audience and to make learning as enjoyable as possible and so allows users to fully interact with the content and includes video, audio and graphics to make the content come alive. In particular the programme includes a considerable amount of new video footage shot by both the Alzheimer’s Society and SCIE where people with dementia and their carers share their views and feelings on camera.

Skills for Care have developed a Knowledge Set for Dementia Care. Knowledge sets provide key learning outcomes for specific areas of work within adult social care. They are designed to improve consistency in the underpinning knowledge learnt by the adult social care workforce in England. In addition to the knowledge set documents, staff can download a ‘progress log’. Both documents are freely downloadable at  Skills for Care. The progress log will be required for each individual worker/learner for each knowledge set. Individuals can keep copies of their progress logs showing their ‘signed off’ progress for their NVQ portfolios.

The Alzheimer’s Society provide factsheets which cover a wide range of dementia-related topics. The online sheets can be saved as a PDF or emailed to a friend.

The Open University has produced a free leaflet, Dementia Care: Sustaining The Person Within, to accompany the programmes. It lists the help and support available when making decisions affecting the care of people with dementia. Centred on the life story of one woman with dementia, the leaflet explores challenges and opportunities for good practice, from a diverse range of perspectives of people involved in dementia care. The aim of the booklet is to encourage people to ask: What is good quality dementia care? How can it be provided? What resources are needed? What organisational cultures are needed to achieve this type of care?

I have always believed that how we care for the most vulnerable members is the mark of a civilised society.  It is in all of our interests to ask questions and challenge poor and inadequate care services on both a personal and a professional level. I would like to see exemplars of best practice promoted and published by the Department of Health. This would establish a benchmark of what we should be aspiring to now and in the future. Public funding is an important consideration but is it the only critical factor in delivering quality care? Research which explores the link between costs and quality care would be a useful starting point.

What will it take to sort out our care homes? An interview with Gerry Robinson in the Daily Telegraph

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Workstation Ergonomics – a free health and safety training course from ALISON

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

workstation ergonomicsALISON’s newest free interactive multimedia e-learning course explains the simple and inexpensive principles that help create a safe and comfortable computer workstation environment. With information, instruction and training, this Health & Safety training course will help individuals avoid accidents, injury and ill-health possibly caused by bad posture or the likes of repetitive strain injury (RSI) and other poor habits formed around the office or home computer.

The course will be of special interest to employers, especially those in small & medium enterprises as a tool to assist in meeting health and safely obligations in the workplace. ALISON provides free group management functionality that allows any trainer, tutor or teacher to create a learning group to which they can invite learners. The benefit is that all tracked learning by the learners of the group can then be easily documented, in terms of lessons covered, grades achieved and time spent.

Enrol on this free course today at ALISON

Welcome to ALISON  which enables anyone, anywhere, to educate themselves for free via interactive self-paced multimedia.

Related Posts: The Internet Social WorkerCould SCIE be part of the eLearning revolution?

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Introducing ChiMat – an invaluable resource for children’s services

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

chimat_logo“Attention has become the scarce resource of the information economy” Wired Magazine

One of my favourite sayings because it is a reality that there is so much information available on the internet that it can become overwhelming. Every organisation I am connected with now sends out an e-Letter. Improving access to, and use of, knowledge and information has been identified as a priority for improving care services. But identifying the resources which will add value to your knowledge and skills is a major challenge.

The national Child and Maternal Health Observatory (ChiMat) provides information and intelligence to improve decision-making for high quality, cost effective services. It supports policy makers, commissioners, managers, regulators, and other health stakeholders working on children’s, young people’s and maternal health. One of the key roles for ChiMat is to act as a signposting organisation for relevant work in the areas of children, young people’s and maternal health and to identify and support potential synergies in national work between government departments and other agencies.

The ChiMat Knowledge Update is one e-Bulletin that I always read. This free online resource provides a snapshot of current issues, news, research, policy and practice across the wide area of children and young people’s services. It is an excellent example of joined up thinking in health and social care. 

Sign up for the weekly ChiMat Knowledge Update here

Recent Knowledge Updates have included information about:

National Indicators datasets
Access to information about national indicators which range from National Indicator 58 – Emotional Behaviour of Looked After Children through to National Indicator 62 – The percentage of children looked after at 31 March with three or more placements subsequently adopted in that placement. Access the ChiMat Data Atlas here

In the News
Community Care: BASW brands integrated children’s system a failure
The British Association of Social Workers has branded the implementation of the computerised integrated children’s system (ICS), which records details of children receiving social care, a “systematic failure”. Access the article here

CWDC: Dawn Primarolo launches Young People’s Workforce Reform Programme
An important chapter for the young people’s workforce, and those it serves, begins today, as Children and Young People’s Minister, Dawn Primarolo launches the Young People’s Workforce Reform Programme. Access more information here

Supporting social care for families and children: An introduction to SCIE’s resources
A new booklet presenting SCIE’s range of resources for families and children’s social care. Access here

BASW and ADCS call for no-blame approach in SCRs
Social workers and directors of children’s services have called for serious case reviews to use a no-blame “systems approach” as developed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Access here

Hidden Children –separated children at risk
Professionals ‘missing opportunities’ to help hidden children exploited for sex and forced labour. Children and young people trafficked into the UK, or exploited after their arrival, are struggling to get help from authorities responsible for their welfare, according to new research from The Children’s Society. Access more information here  
Guides and Practice
Commercial and Procurement Skills for Commissioners of Children’s Services
This page links to a set of guidance documents designed to help commissioners understand and apply commercial and procurement skills in their work. The documents cover the key principles of procurement, an overview of both strategic procurement and the contracting process, an overview of resource mapping and a basic jigsaw tool designed to help commissioners understand the key principles of change management.  Access here 

Policy and Reports
Community engagement key to Enfield’s JSNA strategy
The London Borough of Enfield has teamed up with the local primary care trust (PCT), NHS Enfield. They have placed community engagement at the heart of their joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA). This cas study gives an account of this process and includes key learnings for other councils. Access here

Meeting the specific needs of children with disabilities
The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes presents the latest guidance on the importance of ‘differentiated’ services for disabled children. Access here  

Exploring family environment characteristics and multiple abuse experiences among homeless youth
A qualitative study of homeless youth to examine how they describe past instances of abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and to explore family characteristics in their home environment. Identifies themes relating to the home environment, such as home instability, abandonment and substance abuse; also identifies themes around abuse, including intrafamilial abuse, rejection and carer abuse.
Access here

Safeguarding Targets and Indicators
The National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families) has launched a consultation on Safeguarding Targets and Indicators. Deadline for responses is 8 December 2009. Access here

Events and Training
Five Years On: What’s Changed for Children and Young People?
London, 8 December 2009
Participation Works and 11 Million are holding a one-day conference to review the changes that have taken place since the Children Act 2004. The conference will identify what has worked well and what still needs to be done to ensure that the views and opinions of children and young people help to shape and influence policy and practice. This is a unique opportunity to find out what works in participation and help you to meet the duty to listen to and involve children and young people and to champion their interests. Access more information here

Shirley Ayres Consulting are committed to development through communication in the care sector. With extensive experience in knowledge management and communications we believe that a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, up-to-date with the latest legislation, policy and best practice, enables staff to make the most effective use of their time. This promotes the best outcomes for children, young people, their families and carers.

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Launch of the Final Report of the Social Work Task Force

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

SWTF Header


The formal launch of the final report of the Social Work Task Force will take place on Tuesday 1 December 2009 at Central Hall, Westminster.  This event will be the first opportunity to hear the contents of this report. Registration is required by Thursday 26 November.
This report will set out in detail the recommendations to Government for a programme of comprehensive reform of the social work system in England. Delegates at this event will be the first to hear the contents of the report, as well as a presentation by Moira Gibb, Chair of the Social Work Task Force, and to hear the Government’s response. Members of the Task Force will explore the contents of the report and answer questions. Register here

Indications about the final recommendations:
• The profession needs a stronger, more coherent voice
• A new organisation to support social work which could take the form of a National College for Social Work (interesting to contemplate the future roles of the GSCC, Skills for Care, Children’s Workforce Development Council, Social Care Institute for Excellence and the National Skills Academy for Social Care)
• Different progression routes and career pathways for social work – (management should be one of a number of routes)
• Development of the Advanced Professional Social Worker role
• The importance of high quality CPD (and presumably implications for the current GSCC PRTL)
• A post-qualifying framework which is linked to career progression 
• Support for social workers in improving their basic skills, where required (how basic?)
• Reforms to include guidance on supervision and caseloads
• Recommendations about the ICS and the need for development of IT systems which support social workers as well as providing management information
• A pre-qualifying year and a license to practice
• Closer collaboration between employers and educators (since these partnerships already exist at qualifying and post-qualifying level it will be interesting to see how the recommendations will promote more effective joint working).

Social Work Task Force Website

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What to do about PQ?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Where do the post qualifying awards for social work fit within the new CWDC and Skills for Care education and training frameworks?

mature students imagesWe will never ensure quality training, support and supervision for social workers without the active commitment of employers. The pressures that many social work teams are under won’t ease unless there is real investment by employers in developing and supporting their workforce.” Rosie Varley Chair GSCC in a speech at the GSCC Annual Conference 2009

If you are one of the thousands of PQ award holders you may be as puzzled as I am about the current low profile of the post qualifying awards. Admittedly there has been only a limited amount of research about the impact upon practice of completing a post qualifying award in social work. However, the findings consistently affirm the value of the awards in developing advanced practitioner skills and knowledge. High quality social work requires high levels of professional expertise – this has been known for many years. The real challenge is how we equip social workers with the skills and knowledge to consistently deliver best practice in social work.. We certainly need more research to identify where best practice is happening and whether practitioners with a post qualifying award are making a difference.

It is worth reading “Supporting and Promoting Advanced Social Work” published by the Institute of Psychiatry/Kings College London available here . This publication provides a number of case studies from former students and employers about the benefits of completing an Advanced Award in Social Work. The MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children and Adults teaches practitioners innovative skills in mental health social work that are informed by research. Students not only refresh their knowledge and learn and practise new skills – they are also taught to critically appraise relevant empirical research studies and undertake their own original research. Past students have gone on to influence the development of policy and practice in their agencies, been promoted to leadership positions and offered advanced supervision to less experienced colleagues.

The Interim Report of the Social Work Task Force (SWTF) states that “current arrangements for education, training and career progression are not producing – or retaining – enough social workers suited to the full demands of frontline practice”. Research is required to evidence the links between PQ attainment and the recruitment and retention of social workers. “What support is available for my continuing professional development?” is certainly one of the questions that I would be asking a future employer. More information about the work of the Social Work Task force can be obtained here.

Sadly the challenges facing access to Post Qualifying (PQ) education and training have not radically changed over the last ten years. Funding, capacity issues and the lack of a national performance indicator are big disincentives for employers to invest in staff undertaking post qualifying awards in social work. The not for profit sector, with even less access to funding, are struggling to support staff wanting to undertake PQ. This is further complicated by the number of agency social workers employed by local authorities. There is no consistency in the access they have to continuing professional development opportunities.

Recognition or incentives vary considerably amongst employers because PQ is not systemically linked to re-registration, pay structures or workforce development. It is not clear why the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) did not link the post qualifying awards to the emerging career framework or the Newly Qualified Social Work (NQSW) scheme. I hope that the increased focus on the importance of the Advanced Social Work Practitioner role will provide the necessary impetus for the cultural shift required.

The SWTF Interim Report criticises the current PQ framework for not meeting employers and social workers’ needs for specialisation. Amongst the gaps identified are therapeutic work, emergency duty work and operating in dangerous family environments. A brief look through the London PQ Programmes Directory highlights the diversity of courses available which range from the MSc in Inter-professional Practice through to the Post Graduate Diploma Applied Systemic Theory.

This suggests a problem with the structure of the regional partnerships between employers and universities rather than an unwillingness of the universities to respond to employer demands. The criticism does not seem to take account of the innovative new courses which have been developed by employer and university partnerships including modules on Protecting Vulnerable Children and Personalisation. There is also the reality that universities have to make a business case for developing new programmes – if the demand is there undoubtedly new programmes can be developed. There are costs involved and the numbers may be so small in one region that it may not be financially viable. The growth of eLearning modules increasingly offered by a number of universities may fill the gap. Read about the Research methods and critical appraisal for social workers e-learning short course here

A number of universities have integrated the NQSW outcomes to the post qualifying framework. Arguably, the CWDC and Skills for Care could have demonstrated their commitment to the post qualifying awards by including them in the original brief for developing the NQSW rather than left as an afterthought.

Useful information about PQ including “Making Sense of the Post Qualifying Awards – a brief Guide for London Employers” can be obtained here.

The Social Work Task Force believes that “to be successful the post-qualifying training framework needs to be linked much more explicitly to career structures, progression and Post Registration Training and Learning (PRTL) requirements for registration with the GSCC. Its success will be dependent not only on the standards and quality of the training and materials, but also on the shared engagement of employers and professionals: both sides must make the commitment of time and resources that will be necessary”.

I believe that it is equally important to value and learn from the experiences of the thousands of social workers who have already completed a post qualifying or advanced award in social work.

My top ten suggestions for promoting the post qualifying awards

 A research study to be commissioned to examine the following areas. A quantitative study to determine the number of social workers undertaking, or who have completed, a post qualifying award. A qualitative study to explore the benefits and challenges for employers and social workers of the post qualifying framework. An employer’s study to identify how the achievement of an award is linked to pay scales, career progression and the workforce development strategy.

 The development of an online resource to enable social workers who have completed an original research project as part of their Advanced Award to share their findings.  Maybe this could be hosted by SCIE with a regular feature on Social Care TV? 

 A national communications strategy to promote awareness of the benefits of undertaking a PQ Award. The Social Work Development Partnership to encourage all of the regions to provide a rolling programme of PQ Information Seminars.

 Producing a monthly eLetter which regularly updates all stakeholders about PQ Developments. This could be incorporated into the GSCC Social Work Connections eLetter.

 Making the links between the post qualifying framework and the different initiatives developed by Skills for Care and CWDC to strengthen the recruitment, retention and continuing professional development of social workers. 

 An online survey to be undertaken to determine current levels of awareness and registrations for PQ awards in local authorities, the health service and the private and voluntary sector.

 Social workers who have completed a post qualifying award to be encouraged to become PQ Champions. There is an interesting article about this in the June 2009 London PQ Bulletin

 Information about the range of post qualifying courses to be made more widely available through the development of a National Directory of Post Qualifying Courses  updated annually. The names of universities offering Approved PQ Courses are listed on the GSCC website.  More detailed information about London courses can be downloaded here London PQ Programmes Directory

 A survey to establish what support is being provided by Recruitment Agencies for temporary staff who wish to undertake post qualifying studies. Maybe the Association of Social Work Employment Businesses (ASWEB) could undertake this survey?

And finally an Annual Conference to update employers, practice teachers, front line social workers and people who use services about PQ developments, to celebrate PQ achievements and to promote best practice. You can read about the very successful  conference “Professional Leadership – The Challenge for Advanced Practitioners” which was reported in the April 2008 London PQ Bulletin.

Millions of pounds have been invested in the post qualifying framework over the past fifteen years. Thousands of social workers have invested their time and money in completing a post qualifying award. I hope that the Social Work Task Force will ensure that this investment is embedded into future social work practice.

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