Social Work Education in the UK Part 1

06 Mar

For those who don’t know there has been a review, well 2 reviews of social work education happening here. The first was commissioned by the Department for Education and conducted by Sir Martin Narey. The second was done by Professor David Croisdale-Appleby and was commissioned by the Department of Health. Why there needed to be two separate reviews that were released within days of each other, I am not completely clear and would need to do more research on that. However, we will not get into that.

Those who have seen some of my writing have seen that I was quite looking forward to Sir Martin Narey’s review of Social Work education in England in the hopes that it would enlighten all to the issues present within the glaring disparities among universities as well as the abilities of newly qualified Social Workers. As you can tell from the name of this blog I was not trained in England. However, I hold both a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in Social Work. My Bachelors degree was a generalist degree. It was a four-year degree which required 120 credits for graduation. Prior to entry into the Social Work program (to which I had to apply in my sophomore year) I had to take 21 credits of social and behavioural sciences as well as select one of these areas for a concentration of a minimum of 12 credits (I chose psychology). I also needed an additional 12 credits in Africana Studies, English Composition, Human Biology and Statistics. I needed a total of 60 credit to gain admission into the School of Social Work. The above stated were the core courses, I was also allowed to take electives in anything I chose. My first 2 years were completed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

I always thought of Social Work as a holistic profession. It encompasses traditions from other disciplines in order to fully understand human behavior and development. We were taught from the “person in environment” perspective. My Social Work education as an undergraduate encompassed many of what I considered to be crucial areas (to be discussed later) for a firm foundation in the Social Work profession. What I found odd is that there is no such foundation here. The course work is different and as both of the studies above have outlined wildly inadequate. They do not prepare students for the realities of Social Work practice in England. [I say this however, it appears that at least one of the reviews focuses on statutory Social Work i.e. Child protection/child welfare.]

When I went for my undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, I was required to take the following courses**:

Introduction to Social Work – which explores social work in terms of what the profession seeks (its goals); what it does to achieve these goals (its direct practice models); which principles are to be reflected in all professional social work activity (its values and ethics); how the professional evolved (its history); which social issues are of particular concern to social workers (its special mission re: poverty, racism, sexism, among others); what types of agencies/services involve professional social workers (its fields of practice); and how effective is professional social work (its evaluative systems).
Social Welfare I: which engages students in analyses of the nature and the impact of economic/political/social ideologies and forces which shaped the evolution (up to 1935) of western and other civilizations’ responses to the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled, displaced, children and families at risk, widows and orphans, racial/ethnic minorities, among others, in its midst.

Social Welfare II: which engages students in analyses of the nature and the impact of economic/political/social ideologies and forces which shaped the development of American social welfare policies and services from 1935 to present, including policies/services related to personal and social services, health and mental health, income distribution and income maintenance, employment, and criminal justice including discussions of the processes of policy itself.

Ethnicity and Social Welfare: which engaged students in historical research of federal policies on immigration, naturalization and citizenship; tribal sovereignty; and civil rights within the context of analyses of the sociopolitical histories, traditional cultures, and traditional patterns of social welfare of European Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Americans of Spanish origin.

Interventive methods I: guides students in value-based, culturally sensitive, conceptually framed professional skill development in utilizing effective techniques of worker-client communication; structuring the helping interview (as we are known as the helping profession); establishing, maintaining and terminating effective working relationships; and applying the data collection-assessment-intervention-evaluation process involved in generalist practice with client systems of various sizes.

Interventive methods II: guides students in value-based, culturally sensitive, conceptually framed professional skill development in preparing knowledgeable assessments of the needs of individuals and families as clients/client systems; planning and implementing appropriate plans for intervention; and applying techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Interventive methods III: guides students in value-based, culturally sensitive, conceptually framed professional skill development in establishing and maintaining effective working relationships with organizations of community residents/systems as client systems; working with these organizations to prepare knowledgeable assessments of needs of communities, to develop and implement community plans and strategies of intervention, and to assess the effectiveness of these interventions.

Interventive methods IV: guides students in value-based, culturally sensitive, conceptually framed professional skill development in preparing knowledgeable assessments of the needs of treatment-oriented and task-oriented groups as clients/client systems; establishing facilitative worker relationships with such groups; guiding group activities and processes so as to maximize group goal(s) attainment; and applying techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of practice activity with groups

Human Behavior and the Social Environment: engages students in analyses of bio-psychological (which became bio-psychosocial factors once I got to the Masters level) and factors which facilitate and/or inhibit effective human interactions with such systems in the social environment as family, group, neighborhood and community, employment, housing, health care, and education, with special emphasis upon evaluating the impact of social class, gender, sexual orientation, and racial/ethnic group membership.

Introduction to Social Reasearch: engages students in exploration and analyses of such research concepts as research methods, measurements, sampling and surveying, single case designs, and guides value-based , culturally sensitive professional growth in scientific inquiry, problem formulation, planning and implementation of research designs, analysis of data and assessment of research. (all this was taught and tried as we had to execute an entire research project from start to finish in order to pass the class)

**This information was taken from the student guide for social work students given to candidates in during my study and although the current program looks slightly different, it still incorporates the basics.**

This solid foundation placed me in a privileged position as a Social Worker coming to England, although at the point of arrival I also had a Masters which is a clinical degree. However, without the above foundation, I doubt I would have the success I have today. All the skills that it is being said social workers need to develop more (professional judgement, analysis, forming hypotheses and testing them, culturally sensitivity, etc.) were all included in my undergraduate education. I know this is why, once I was recruited to come here, it was easy for me to prove my education and experience met and exceeded the requirements to be a Social Worker in England. I think this is the direction that Social Work needs to go here.

Social Work education should incorporate students learning:

–          History of Social Work and how it came to be where it is today

–          Human development and behavior

–          Research methods and the use of research

–          Social Work theory and how this is used practically

–          Different Social Work interventions and skills as well as in which settings these are most productive/useful

–          How to complete assessments: if you’re taught the basics well, you will be able to pick up any template and do a thorough assessment

–          How to put together and insightful, thought-out analysis

–          How to record information

–          How to complete a care plan: again, if this is done well a Social Worker should be able to pick up any template and put together a coherent plan of action

–          How to work with various populations


Posted by on March 6, 2014 in The Social World


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4 responses to “Social Work Education in the UK Part 1

  1. TG Consultancy

    March 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Reblogged this on KeepingtheBalanceinSW and commented:

    I encourage all UK Social Workers and student Social Workers to have a say in what is being developed



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