Headlines: May 13th, 2003

Users of social services and people responsible for caring for others are to be given an important role in shaping the new social work degree. The Health Minister, Jacqui Smith, has also announced new funding arrangements and further initiatives for the new qualification.She has told stakeholders in social work training and education that the government is committed to modernising public services and raising the standards of care. In total the government is investing over 21 million pounds in social work education and training and support for students this year. The amount will increase to more than 81 million pounds by 2005-6.

Miss Smith said the focus now was on the valuable experience and expertise of service users and carers. Just as they had a say in the way their services were delivered, she said, the government wanted to see them playing a part in the training of social workers. They would be actively consulted and involved in the development, design and delivery of the degree through every Higher Education Institution.

The minister said the current recruitment campaign was having an impact, but better information was needed for people interested in a social care career and a new service would be established, offering information across health and social care sectors.

“The new degree also has a far stronger focus on practice learning, requiring social workers to demonstrate their practical application of skills and knowledge, and their ability to deliver a service, which creates opportunities for service users. As a minimum we now expect students to spend 200 days in practice,” she added.

There would be funding for practice learning of 7 million pounds this year, rising to 13 million next year and to 37 million in 2005-6. The investment will pay for the development of Skills Laboratories, where social work practice can be rehearsed and communication and other professional skills developed.

A non-means tested bursary for all social work students in England is being introduced in September. It will be paid to degree students and existing Diploma students and will include the student’s tuition fees and 500 pounds towards their practice placement costs. On average the package is worth 4,000 pounds a year to each student.