8 January 2016

A scheme to recruit top talent into social work is set to be expanded across the country, including in Sheffield, after the Government pledged £100m of further funding.

Sheffield City Council has been instrumental in helping set up the Step Up to Social Work scheme in the Yorkshire and Humber region – an intensive 14-month fast track programme aimed at training and retaining high quality front line children and families social workers.

And due to the success of the scheme nationally, the Government has now promised further funds to roll it out more widely by expanding Step Up and a similar programme called Frontline. This will see 2,000 high-calibre graduates trained over the next five years.

This comes as the fourth intake onto the Step Up scheme begin their post-graduate degree course next Monday (January 11) at the University of Salford from both Greater Manchester (led by Salford Council) and Yorkshire and the Humber (led by Sheffield City Council). Teaching for Yorkshire and the Humber students will be delivered by Salford lecturers in Leeds, as the central point for the region, after the day in Salford.

The idea is that by helping students to gain more experience of social work, the programme will increase the number of practice-ready social workers, which in turn reduces the reliance on costly agency staff.

Graham Archer, Director of the Social Work Reform Unit at the Department for Education will be welcoming 82 new students at a special lunch on the day to mark the occasion.

Retention rates of social workers in Sheffield and the region have increased since the programme was launched back in 2010.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Young People, said: “Our social workers do an exceptional job working with some of our most vulnerable children, young people and families.

“Good social work changes lives and whilst the career can be challenging, it can also be hugely rewarding for those who want to make a difference to the most vulnerable families and young people.

“That is why Step Up has been such a fantastic initiative, encouraging those who are good at working with children and families to think about possibly changing careers and becoming a social worker. Their experiences are invaluable and in the last few years we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of social workers who are “job ready” as result of this programme.”

She added the calibre of students has been high and on the job training has given them a real sense of what the job is all about in the real world. “This has meant we can recruit the right people to the job and know they are trained to the high standards we demand,” she said.

“As a council we have been leading the way with this initiative and our input in this programme has helped resolve recruitment and retention issues across the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

“So it is great to see the Government actually recognising the work we have done and pledging further funding to increase this programme.”

There will be 52 students from Yorkshire and the Humber and 30 students from Manchester on the next course.

Mary Shannon, Acting Leader of the Step up to Social Work Programme at the University of Salford said: “We are delighted that leading representatives from the Department for Education and from our partner local authorities across Yorkshire and the Humber and Greater Manchester will be attending the launch of ‘Step Up to Social Work’ Cohort 4. The programme has been an important and successful part of our Social Work training programmes here at the University and we very much look forward to welcoming this new cohort.”

The Yorkshire and Humber regional Step Up partnership is the largest in the country consisting of 10 local authorities and has already hosted 100 students to become qualified social workers over the last three cohorts. Most of the applicants had wanted to become social workers for years but couldn’t afford to step out of paid employment to train.

Step Up allows people to do this by paying course fees and a bursary to enable students to continue to support families and afford living costs. The programme has attracted people from diverse communities and age ranges and those from occupations such as head teachers, probation officers, and family support workers with years of life experience.

FURTHER DETAILS:

Step Up to Social Work is a fast track entry route into child and families social work for high-achieving graduates and career changers. It’s an intensive 14 month post graduate degree programme that allows students to experience what frontline statutory intervention including child protection is all about and how they can make a real difference to vulnerable children’s lives.

Sheffield has a career pathway and it employs consultant social workers to mentor newly qualified social workers. It has a three-year early professional development training programme and social workers have to complete a portfolio. Until March 2012, the council received money from the Department for Education to help towards this and a grant to pay for four of the social work consultants, but that grant ceased with all the budget cuts. However, Sheffield decided to keep those consultants in post and the council invested heavily in the training and development of social workers.

This career pathway has helped with retention and Ofsted feedback has highlighted Sheffield as a good example of workforce development, because of the career structure.

Sheffield City Council is also a member of Children’s Social Work Matters, a collaborative project between the 15 local authorities of Yorkshire and the Humber to raise the profile and standards of children’s social work in the region. For more information visit www.childrenssocialworkmatters.org