Councils working on proposals for social work Degree Apprenticeships

After an assessment at the end of the programme, trainees would gain a university degree with the same professional status as social workers who have qualified through other routes.

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A group of local authorities in England is applying to the government to approve the first social worker degree apprenticeship scheme, which could offer a route into the profession for experienced care staff who don’t have an academic background.

Supported by Skills for Care, the group is consulting on an apprenticeship standard for social workers, which outlines the practice knowledge and skills required of those qualifying through the route.

They plan to submit a final version to the Institute for Apprenticeships in late June, and hope to get a decision from the government on whether it can go ahead with the scheme by the end of the year.

Despite being unconfirmed, draft standards say the integrated Degree Apprenticeship would be expected to last 36 months, CommunityCare.co.uk has reported.

The trainee social workers would be paid from day one, and undergo a mixture of on- and off-the-job training, as with all apprenticeships. At least 20% of an apprenticeship should be off-the-job training, but exactly how this looks would be decided by the local authority and its apprentice training provider. It is likely that these providers would be universities.

After an assessment at the end of the programme, trainees would gain a university degree with the same professional status as social workers who have qualified through other routes.

The placements would be funded by the new apprenticeship levy, which is set at 0.5% of the pay bill of organisations with a total pay bill of more than £3m, to fund apprenticeship placements. For every £1 of levy paid, the government will top up by 10p. Most local authorities are expected to pay a levy contribution.

“Local authorities are massively excited about this as they see it as an efficient way of using their levy payments and a way of moving forward the careers of internal staff working in care who have the right values and experience to be a social worker but not necessarily the academic background.”

Employers would decide the rate apprentices would be paid, but they would be required by government to pay at least the minimum wage rate.

Peter Barron, project manager for standards learning qualifications and apprenticeships at Skills for Care, who is supporting the development of the apprenticeship scheme, said local authorities involved in developing the standard were “estimating four or five starts each per year, but this is very much a rough estimate”, CommunityCare.co.uk reported.

Barron said the group developing the scheme consists of “volunteers from all over the country”. Mostly employed by local authorities, they are from a mixture of children’s and adults’ services backgrounds, and include principal social workers and learning and development managers.

“Local authorities are massively excited about this as they see it as an efficient way of using their levy payments and a way of moving forward the careers of internal staff working in care who have the right values and experience to be a social worker but not necessarily the academic background.”

“Compared to placements, an apprentice is a paid employee from day one with no student loan and gaining practical experience every day,” Barron said. The consultation closes on 2 June.

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