Posted Wednesday 16 March 2022
A new postgraduate social work course has launched at Kingston University to alleviate the national shortage of qualified social workers and increase diversity in the profession.
The Step Up to Social Work programme enables students to train and qualify within 14 months. The Department for Education (DfE)-funded initiative is open to graduates and career changers who have paid or voluntary experience of working with children, young people or families.
The programme, which is in its first year of teaching at Kingston University, gives students hands-on experience of working in a real-life social work role through placements with the local authority, Sutton Council and Achieving for Children, who provide services for Kingston Council. Students also earn while they learn, with the DfE providing tax-free bursaries of £19,833 for the duration of the programme, as well as payment of course fees for successful applicants. Students are awarded a postgraduate diploma in social work from Kingston University on completion of the course, enabling them to register and practice as a social worker.
Head of the Department of Social Work and Social Care at Kingston University, Dr Wilson Muleya, said the launch came at an important time to alleviate sector challenges.
“This programme is really important to help address some of the heavy caseloads that social workers are carrying,” he said. “It means we have a cohort of students graduating each year who have experience and are genuinely passionate about the sector. It also gives our partners in the region access to a pipeline of qualified social workers ready for employment.”
The Step Up to Social Work scheme seeks to diversify the profession by encouraging applications from under-represented groups in the field, including men and candidates from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
Sikota Mutemwa is one of the students in this year's cohort. She decided to change career after working in finance for several years while juggling part-time roles as a support worker at the same time. She chose to specialise in social work to help those who feel underrepresented in society.
"Throughout my career, I've met people from all sorts of backgrounds and found that not everyone has the same opportunities," she said. "I want to become a social worker to be that voice for those who don't have representation – to help them achieve positive outcomes and ensure that their views are heard."
Another student, Isaac Snow, applied after working for three years in the charity sector as a caseworker, providing support for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. "I had quite a lot of interactions with social services in my role. I saw the lasting impact that social workers can have on people and that really inspired me to develop a career in the field," he said.
“Becoming a social worker will offer me the opportunity to broaden my skillset, while supporting vulnerable people and remaining in a field that I’m passionate about.”
The course is split equally between academic study at Kingston University and on-the-job placements with Sutton Council and Achieving for Children. Students can apply for full-time employment with Sutton Council and Achieving for Children after successfully completing the programme.
Course lead Sue Lansley said the programme also helps with the retention of social workers in the local area.
"Organisations will often employ a newly qualified social worker as part of the ASYE (Assessed and supported year in employment) programme, but it's quite difficult to retain them beyond the year," she said. "They often move to another employer as part of relocating elsewhere or going back home. This programme helps with retention as it draws people in from their existing local area. It gives the local authorities the opportunity to grow their own social workers and nurture their professional development beyond completion of the programme."