18 November 2013

A look back at the first year of social work programme approvals

When the Register for social workers in England opened on 1 August 2012, we became responsible for the 249 pre-registration social work programmes that had previously been approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). To ensure these programmes meet our standards of education and training (SETs), we will visit each of these programmes to confirm their approval.

We held the first year of these approval visits during the 2012–13 academic  year and will continue with the visits for another two years As with all professions new to the HCPC, we have completed a review of this first year of approval visits to social work programmes.

Considering the other recent, non-regulatory changes in the social work education sector, we expected there would be significant changes to education providers’ social work provision.

One thing we saw was a twelve per cent reduction in the number of approved and transitionally approved programmes a year after the transfer. Of the 82 education providers running transitionally approved programmes at the point of transfer, 79 continued to deliver social work programmes, with three closing their social work provision entirely. The graph below shows how these closures have affected the split between approved undergraduate and postgraduate programmes over the last year. You can read more about these changes in the full paper, which you can view on our website here.

Comparison of programme numbers at the point of transfer and at the end of the 2012–13 – by qualification level

We also noted that there were significant changes to some programmes in areas such as curriculum design and delivery, and practice placements standards as they adapted to meet our standards, but also due to the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force, including The College of Social Work’s (TCSW) Professional Capabilities Framework.

Our review shows that the approval process was implemented effectively and that we have learned from the recent onboarding of other professions, such as hearing aid dispensers and practitioner psychologists. Specifically, as part of the preparation for the onboarding of the profession, we ensured that we worked closely with TCSW, holding regular meetings and developing a suggested agenda for joint approval / endorsement events.

In the full paper, we have provided detailed analysis about which standards had a higher number of conditions set, and have discussed reasoning for why we needed to set more conditions for these standards. Education providers, in particular those who have yet to have their visit, may find the full report useful in preparing for their own visits.

In particular, we have noted that many conditions were set in several of our broad SET areas, specifically those related to curriculum and assessment (SET 4 and 6), practice placements (SET 5), and programme management (SET 3). However, it is important to note that these are not issues that are specific to social worker programmes in meeting our standards. We expect to see conditions in these areas when onboarding any new profession or visiting new programmes from existing professions.

Number of conditions for social work programmes in 2012–13 – by broad areas of the standards of education and training

Where necessary, programmes have implemented changes to ensure our regulatory requirements are met. This shows that our standards, which are designed to be broad and flexible, can be applied across different professions and education programmes.

All social work programmes that we visited in the 2012-13 academic year have now successfully completed the approval process. The programmes now have ongoing approval confirmed, subject to satisfactory monitoring. We will continue to review the outcomes from our approval visits to social work programmes on a regular basis throughout the next two academic years.

Jamie Hunt
Education Manager


View the full review paper at www.hcpc-uk.org/assets/documents/100042FESWapprovalreview12-13.pdf

Find out more about our education processes at www.hcpc-uk.org/education/

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