Is there a route into Social Work without a degree?

Posted on May 27th, 2010

An article in the postgraduate queries section of The Independent has received some attention from the Community Care Blog this week. The article focuses on a question from a graduate interested in a career in Social Work.

The graduate asked, “I will be finishing a BA in public service management in December, and would like to go in to Social Work, but I have been told a Masters Degree is the only way. Is this right? Or does my (relevant) degree give me a shortcut?”

The Independent’s answer is quite succinct, and offers some helpful advice for anyone wanting to enter in to Social Work, but one phrase is picked up by the Community Care Blog. The Independent’s answer includes the statement, “The only way to circumvent this process is to secure a role as a trainee Social Worker, in which case you will be seconded to a relevant course and will be earning a reasonable salary.” The Community Care Blog’s concern about this statement was the suggestion that you could ‘circumvent’ the need to obtain a relevant degree in Social Work to practice as a Social Worker.

Whilst the answer is not wrong, they could have avoided any confusion by adding a little more detail to the answer. The Community Care Blog fleshes out the answer a little by suggesting that it would be possible to follow the NVQ in Health and Social Care route. Through this, you could complete the registered manager’s award, enabling you to manage a service in the Social Care sector.

The Independent does confirm that you are required to complete either an undergraduate qualification, or a Masters in Social Work to practice as a Social Worker, but perhaps should have stated that this is now a requirement to be able to register as a Social Worker with the General Social Care Council.

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Violence is just a change of attitude

Posted on May 16th, 2010

Community Care magazine recently published a series of articles about violence towards Social Workers which has been a long term issue. The situation is not going to be resolved in the short term by a change in attitude from the service users. The very nature of the people with whom Social Workers came in to face to face contact with is that they are usually living on the edge of society. The behaviour of a violent client or substance misusing parent is predictable in so much as at some point they are going to be verbally or physically abusive. The trigger may be stress or a desire not to be challenged about child protection issues.

The solution to the issue of violence lies with the Social Work profession itself and it requires a shift in attitude by Social Workers and their line managers. It is time that Social Work remembers there is another piece of legislation that it is required to adhere to as a profession and that is the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act. The act clearly states that local authorities are to offer their workers a safe working environment and this includes home visits to service users.  Managers should support this aspect of the Health and Safety Act through comprehensive risk assessments – a mandatory task which few local authorities or Social Workers actively engage in to ensure people’s safety and I include here the safety of the children we are visiting.

Having acknowledged that a local authority or voluntary organisation has a responsibility to it’s work force, the fact that individual Social Workers are accountable for their own and their colleague’s safety should not be over looked. The ‘admin’ person who forgets to telephone a Social Worker whilst they are on a home visit is placing their colleague at risk and should be made aware of this.  The desired outcome is to change behaviour not to blame nor punish – rather an awkward conversation than a visit to a Social Worker in hospital.

Personal safety advice and risk assessments can be met with resistance, Social Workers express they can not do their job if they change the way they work, yet the simplest safety advice is often ignored. It is not too much of a change in attitude to sit in a chair nearest the door, with items that you are prepared to leave behind if a quick exit is required!  

Social Workers by nature seem to place other people’s needs before their own; they frequently charge head long, without thinking in to dangerous situations because their primary focus is to complete a required task within the demanded timescales. Social Workers do not often stop and reflect on the situation that they have become involved in and they can ignore their own doubts when a situation is unsafe.  Avocet advises any of our Independent Social Workers that if they do not feel safe entering a house, then do not go in.  A good Social Worker reports the matter and looks for alternative ways to approach the situation always bearing in mind that if they don’t feel safe in the house then the children probably don’t feel safe either.


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