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Return to Social Work

The University of Manchester and the University of Salford delivered two separate training courses for social work practitioners who needed to update their practice in order to re-register with HCPC. UoM ran the course in January and February and UoS in February and March. The courses were funded by GMSWA for social workers living within Greater Manchester (GM) and /or social workers wanting to practice in GM after they had re-registered with HCPC. The course was intended to encourage experienced social workers to come back into practice in a supported way. The course consisted of 5 days university input and 10 days on practice placement at local authorities across GM.

UoM recruited 10 candidates who were all qualified social workers but who had been out of practice between 2 – 5 years and so needed to update their practice to re-register with HCPC. Candidates were from Children and Families and Adults backgrounds. UoS decided to broaden the time restrictions so that they were able to offer places to more students. They offered 28 places and some of these candidates had been out of practice more than 5 years. It will be helpful now to look as a partnership at the pros and cons of working with the broader or narrower practice timescale.

The course consisted of five facilitated workshops in the University. Day One explored changes in current practice and experienced social work practitioners came along as part of a practice panel to answer questions and give candidates the benefit of their frontline current experience. This worked well at enabling candidates to know what they didn’t know and what they needed to find out more about. Day Two was focused on updating candidates on changes in legislation and policy across social work areas. Day 3 was a day of simulation where actors were employed and candidates practiced undertaking safeguarding interviews. The interviews were taped and detailed feedback and discussion took place after the interviews to explore what had gone well and other ways candidates might have approached the issues. Candidates then went out on 10 day practice placements. 

All placements had a mentor provided who supported the candidates and offered supervision to enable the candidates to get the most out of their time in the agencies. Candidates then came back to the University on Day 4 and discussed their experience and learning from their practice placements. All students gave a presentation on their experiences and crucially on what changes they had seen in practice and what they had learnt. Day 5 was our final day on Employability. Employers from several agencies across GM came along and did mock interviews with candidates as they would have done if they were interviewing for jobs. Candidates also had the opportunity to ask employers questions and were given detailed feedback on their interview performance.

Both courses were highly evaluated and effectively prepared students for their return to practice.. At UoM candidates said they had experienced fantastic learning and 100% of candidates rated the course as excellent. One person commented ‘The whole unit was incredibly valuable. Within the second week of placement, I had secured a permanent position. I am certain this would have taken much longer without this course’

Out of the 10 candidates we recruited by UoM we know that 5 already have new social work related jobs in GM. UoS also had very positive evaluations and the results of these are currently being processed.

Our evaluation overall is that both courses met their aims. We created a learning package which was through and effective in supporting people back into the workplace. The courses worked excellently in partnership with employers who were vital partners in enabling the learning to be truly authentic and helped prepare the candidates well. We are looking forward to running the course again later this year and have already received many enquiries.

Colleagues from UoM and UoS who ran the Return to Social Work courses are now keen to evaluate the experience further and to consult now with candidates who have started work, with employers who provided placements and employers who are now employing the Return to Social Work candidates. We will keep us all updated!
Pat Cartney

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