A survey has confirmed that the majority of local authorities will be using social work apprenticeships to train up future professionals inside the sector.

Councils hope that the move will encourage more people to come forward to take up positions as child and family social workers.

The apprenticeships being offered will be paid, so that students will be earning money from the moment they start.

Bizarrely, the survey, which was conducted by the Department for Education, also revealed that 80% of local authority directors were positive about the knowledge and skills of social workers in their authority. This view does not reflect the current crisis faced by the sector, in which a significant number of councils continue to let children down and place them at risk. Google “Ofsted Rates Inadequate” or “councils rated poor in social work”, and the extent of the problem becomes painfully obvious.

Researching Reform is deeply concerned by this development. Whilst apprenticeships can be for the good where services are efficient and effective, inside a sector where resources are scarce and quality of practice is highly variable, the move may lead to a new generation of social workers picking up bad habits and placing yet more children and families at risk.

The decision to offer these apprenticeships has clearly been based on a desire to entice more people into social work. How many times must we tell the government that financial incentivisation is not a magic wand, and can do more harm than good, especially when there is a need for a massive rethink about the way a system runs, day to day?

Whilst there appears to be tandem learning on offer with collaborating universities, this is not much of a comfort. The current curriculum for social work is patchy and lacking in depth, and must be overhauled before any meaningful progress can be made inside the sector.

What do you think? Are apprenticeships a disaster waiting to happen, or do they offer benefits?

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