A new pilot qualification to better meet the needs of social care workers undertaking a key role in the delivery of social services is launching in Wales.
Achieving a consistent learning and development approach for this group of workers – who are not social workers but who make an important contribution to the work of social work teams – has been a focus of work for the Care Council for Wales and local authorities for a number of years.
And with Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 providing further direction to address those needs, the Care Council has commissioned The Open University, to work in partnership with them and local authorities, to deliver a two-year Social Services Practitioner Programme pilot.
Both the Act and the accompanying Codes of Practice highlight the need for those involved in assessments to have the necessary knowledge, skills and competence to do so – which is underpinned by an appropriate social care qualification.
The new pilot programme aims to adequately meet this need, qualifying workers to deliver a range of support services from advice to managed care, under the supervision of a registered practitioner. Completion will see candidates achieve a Certificate in Higher Education in Social Care Practice (Wales) – a Level 4 qualification that will assure their competence in practice.
As well as improving the professional status of those employed in the supporting roles, the programme also aims to have a positive impact on those accessing services.
Local authorities have been instrumental in the joint development of the pilot programme, and each of Wales’ 22 councils has been able to benefit from two funded places provided by the Care Council.
Jacky Drysdale, workforce development manager at the Care Council, said: “This is an exciting development that will not only have a positive impact on the quality of assessment services individuals who use care and support services receive, but also provide career opportunities, acknowledgement and a professional status for many workers who found accessing education and learning while they worked difficult.”
Judith Davies, head of social work (Wales) of The Open University, added: “We are pleased to be working with the Care Council for Wales and all 22 local authorities on this award. More than 150 students – including pilot students – will commence the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice (Wales) in October 2016.
“It is particularly exciting that the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 recognises and values the important and complex role carried out by workers in social services practitioner-type roles and as a result this award is unique in the UK.
“People who use services and carers will undoubtedly benefit greatly as students completing the award begin to use the knowledge and skills they have gained through their studies. The Open University is thrilled to be a part of this.”
Local authority partners have also welcomed the launch of the programme.
Mike Howard, social care training officer at Ceredigion Council, said: “We are pleased to be part of the pilot of this new award, which values the contribution of support workers, and gives the opportunity for them to gain a recognised qualification.
“This is an exciting new award – level 1 of the BSc (Hons) Social Work Degree – and will stand staff in good stead for undertaking the degree programme should they want to become qualified social workers.
“We wish all the participants in the pilot all the very best in their endeavours to achieve this qualification.”
Rhiannon Thorn, Business Partner at Blaenau Gwent Caerphilly Workforce Development Service, added: “The introduction of the Social Services and Practitioner qualification is an exciting opportunity for non-social work staff that are assessing and meetings needs of both adults and children.
“The SSP will support the implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 by equipping staff with the skills and knowledge they will need when assessing and meeting citizen’s well-being outcomes.
“In addition, benefits also include a clearer progressive career pathway for staff and a recognition of the assessment work carried out by non-social work staff.”