Employers value experience of having students on placements, GSCC report finds

2 May 2012 01:58 PM

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) today launched its new report, The supply of social work practice placements: Employers’ views, which analyses the views of employers on the provision of practice placements for social work students.

The report is based on the responses of 466 employers, who provided approximately a third of all placements in 2010-11. These employers made it clear that they value the experience of having students on placement in their organisation, and many make considerable efforts to ensure that they continue to be involved in provision of placements.

Over the years, the GSCC has been aware of concerns regarding the supply, quality and relevance of practice placements for social work students. However, many of these concerns remain anecdotal in nature. The results of the research show that whilst the current climate is challenging, employers have managed to keep the supply of practice placements stable during the period covered by the research overall (2009-10 to 2011-12).

However the reported stability needs to be considered against a context of rising demand - the last two years have seen the two largest enrolments to the social work degree since its introduction. Also supply differed considerably amongst individual employers with some regions, particularly the East and West Midlands and Yorkshire, more likely to report a decline in practice placements.

Employers identified a number of factors as being crucial to their ability to maintain or increase the supply of practice placements. These included practice placement funding, the commitment of senior leadership in their organisation to being involved in provision, and the existence of a more general learning culture in their organisation.

The research also highlights the importance of partnerships between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and employers. The GSCC has been encouraging HEIs and local employers to build strong and lasting partnerships to drive up the quality of practice placements for some time. Currently, a large proportion of placement provision is organised on an ad hoc, demand driven basis. HEI’s and employers need to jointly plan the demand and supply of placements and the capacity of employers to support students on placements. The West London Pilot for the Recruitment and Retention of Social Workers demonstrates a good partnership arrangement where HEIs and employers have developed a statement of ten key priorities they expect in a graduate social worker.

Penny Thompson, Chief Executive of the GSCC said:

“Practice placements are vital to social work students’ development, helping them to prepare for the demands of the challenging job that lies ahead. During the 200 days that a student spends on placement, they have the crucial experience of life as a frontline social worker.

Concerns about practice placements are not new. This research report shows though, how much employers value the experience of having students on placements. Despite the pressures employers are currently under, their commitment to invest in the future of social work is truly commendable. It is evidence of employers understanding that they share joint responsibility with HEIs for a social work student’s training.

There is no doubt that recent reforms such as the principles for partnerships between universities and employers developed by the Social Work Reform Board and held by the College of Social Work, and the supply and demand model for social workers available from the Centre for Workforce Intelligence will strengthen social work education and the profession more generally. What is of the utmost importance, as the final report of the Munro Review of Child Protection stressed, is HEIs and employers working together to deliver practice placements of the highest quality.”

Hilary Tompsett, vice-chair of the GSCC said:

“This report highlights the considerable commitment evidenced by many employers to supporting the provision of practice placements in order to be able to recruit well prepared social workers, and higher education programmes value this commitment. However the impact of current pressures on employers and HEIs cannot be underestimated in relation to maintaining the quality of supervision and range of experience provided to students while on placement.

The Employers Standards developed by the Social Work Reform Board and held by the Local Government Association strongly recommend employer engagement in partnerships supporting social work education and placements.  These have been developed further in Professor Eileen Munro’s Report and recommendations for advanced teaching organisations, student units and quality placements.

The factors identified by employers in this report are critical to sustaining future placement experiences, as are the recommendations from the Social Work Reform Board and the Munro Review.”


Media contact: Harika Chadha – 020 7397 5863 (out of hours 07825 309738)

Notes to editors

  1. The supply of social work practice placements: Employers’ views is available from /page/195/General+publications+and+research+reports.html
  2. An online survey was undertaken in late November 2011 using the Survey Monkey online software tool, and a number of interviews with local authorities were undertaken in January and February 2012 to provide some sample case studies.
  3. Of a potential 1,400 respondents contacted, 466 responses to the survey were received, a response rate of 33 per cent. The respondents to the survey were responsible for providing a total of 4,672 placements in 2010-11, estimated to be approximately one-third of all placements provided that year. Of these 4,672 placements, 3,709 (66 per cent) were ‘statutory’ placements, which were provided collectively by 198 of the respondents. This 3,709 equated to approximately half of all the statutory placements provided that year.
  4. The General Social Care Council (GSCC) was established on 1 October 2001. It was set up in England under the Care Standards Act 2000 to establish codes of practice for social care workers and employers, to set up a register of social care workers and to regulate social work education and training. Similar bodies exist in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  5. In July 2010 the Government announced that the powers of the GSCC will transfer to the Health Professions Council (HPC) whose name will be changed to reflect this. The transfer will take place on 31 July 2012.

Until the transfer, social workers and social work students are required to register with us in order to practise. For further information see our FAQs