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University backs new approach to social work education and training

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Social Work England meeting in June 2022

The University of Bradford has backed Social Work England’s plans for a new approach to social work education and training. These include ensuring newly qualified social workers receive more support throughout their early careers.

Social Work England became the regulator for social workers in England in December 2019. Its overall purpose is to protect the public by setting professional standards, investigating concerns and holding the register of social workers. It also regulates over 300 social work courses around the country.

The arm’s length organisation’s chair Professor Kamlesh Kumar Patel, Lord Patel of Bradford, OBE, a former Bradford social worker, and its chief executive Colum Conway, visited the University on June 7.

Mr Conway, himself a former social worker, said: “I was very pleased that the University of Bradford was open and willing to support the direction of travel for what needs to happen around improvement and development of social work in general.

"Part of that will mean working with education providers, employers and the social work sector to ensure that newly qualified social workers are consistently graduating from their qualifying courses, able to meet the professional standards and ready to practise safely and effectively.

“Once students qualify, there’s an opportunity to continue to support them into the profession, and I think it’s important for us to present universities as part of the solution.”

The University trains around 70 social workers a year, half via its undergraduate BA course, and half through its postgraduate MA route. 

Robert Strachan, also a former social worker and now Head of the University’s Social Work & Care department, said: “Social work is central to the support and safeguarding and care of some of the most vulnerable members of society, be it children, adults , people with learning or physical difficulties, and for those with mental health issues. 

Picture: Professor Amir Sharif, Dean of the Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences, opens the Social Work England lecture at the University of Bradford in June 2022.

Social Work England lecture

“As a profession with a protected title, it works within a strict legal framework but more than that it operates and influences significant areas of society, both statutory and voluntary. On a local and regional level, we are constantly reminded of the social issues that can create significant hardship and suffering for individuals and groups within society. Social work as a profession has a central role in supporting these groups but also undertakes a vital public protection role, working as it does, closely alongside other agencies and professionals.

“Working across partnerships and agencies is probably the key ‘way forward’. On a local level the Social Work department at the University of Bradford has, and must maintain, a key role in supporting professional colleagues within the Bradford area.”

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon also voiced her support for closer collaboration with Social Work England and other bodies, including the council. She said: “We’re keen to work with Social Work England to support graduate social workers, and to be part of any transformation that strengthens not only the profession but the public’s confidence in it.”

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