New social workers lack skills – GSCC survey

Poll reveals that social workers feel that new recruits are not properly prepared for the challenges of the job.

Newly qualified social workers lack skills in risk analysis when they first start work, a major poll of social work professionals has revealed.

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) survey, seen exclusively by CYP Now, found 93 per cent of almost 500 social workers think newly qualified staff lack key skills when they enter the workplace.

Almost half claimed new social workers didn’t have sufficient understanding of risk analysis, while a quarter said recruits need more experience of working with different groups of service users. More than one in eight felt social work training should do more to improve students’ communication skills.

Rosie Varley, chair of the GSCC, said the poll reinforces the proposals of the Social Work Taskforce, particularly the recommendation to introduce an assessed year in employment for new workers and the push for high-quality placements for students on social work degrees.

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, warned that the government’s revised version of Working Together to Safeguard Children does less to emphasise the importance of risk assessment than previous statutory guidance.

“Many really experienced social workers argue that there has been a dilution of focus on risk assessment,” she explained. “Laming’s first report into child protection championed a more preventative agenda. That’s fine as long as we don’t lose an emphasis on risk analysis at the sharp end of practice.”

Kim Bromley-Derry, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the new social work degree would provide more focus on core social work skills.

But he warned: “Additional resources will be required to allow local authorities to meet their responsibilities to the workforce.”

The Social Work Taskforce also recommended introducing a clear career structure for workers. In a second question, answered by more than 600 social workers, more than half of the respondents said they would stay on the frontline and work as “advanced professionals”, should such a structure be introduced. Only a fifth said they would consider going into management roles.