How to Support Newly Qualified Social Workers in Practice

Professor Lee-Ann Fenge
Emily Rosenorn-Lanng
28th February 2014

Safeguarding practice is one of the most demanding and rewarding areas of social work, but it also poses many challenges and risks for newly qualified social workers (NQSWs). NQSWs need to develop their skills, knowledge and confidence to deal with complex and sensitive cases, often in pressurised and uncertain contexts.

That’s why Plymouth City Council Children’s Social Care has developed a tailored version of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) for NQSWs working in safeguarding roles. The ASYE is a national programme that aims to support NQSWs in their transition from student to practitioner, and to ensure that they meet the standards of the Professional Capabilities Framework.

The Plymouth ASYE scheme is based on a holistic assessment model that uses a portfolio of evidence, practice observations, reflective accounts, and feedback from various sources. The scheme also provides a comprehensive taught programme, action learning sets, supervision, buddying, and induction to support the NQSWs’ learning and development.

The scheme has been evaluated by an independent research team from the University of Plymouth, who interviewed the NQSWs, their practice educators, and their managers about their experiences and views of the ASYE process. The evaluation report provides a detailed analysis of the strengths and areas for improvement of the scheme, as well as recommendations for future cohorts.

The evaluation report highlights some of the positive aspects of the Plymouth ASYE scheme, such as:

  • The taught programme was effective in building on the NQSWs’ level of knowledge post-qualification, and NQSWs valued the opportunity it gave to consolidate their knowledge.
  • The action learning sets were seen as a particularly useful element of the ASYE process.
  • For the majority of NQSWs supervision was rated good or excellent, although this does seem to be context specific.
  • The portfolio design and structure supports the development of critical reflection and reflective practice.
  • The multi-faceted approach to practice observations supports the creation of a robust overview of the NQSWs’ practice experience.
  • For the most part the buddying scheme was viewed a positive element, with face-to-face informal meetings being seen as the most positive way to gain support.

The evaluation report also identifies some of the challenges and areas for development of the Plymouth ASYE scheme, such as:

  • Induction: feedback suggests that the current Corporate and ASYE process does not fully meet the needs and expectations of the ASYE. There is a lack of clarity about what the Induction process involves, and some concerns that staff who have already had a placement/employment with Plymouth City Council Children’s Social Care do not receive the same Induction.
  • Portfolio assessment: The research highlighted concerns about the amount and form of assessments. There was some dissatisfaction with the interim assessment. There were also suggestions that work products or an extended essay could be alternatives to reflective accounts.
  • Practice Observations: Although the different perspectives of the observations created a holistic picture, the NQSWs saw this as confusing. Further clarification, including a rationale for the difference may help to develop their understanding.
  • Workload management: this is a complex matter and the research raised concerns around non-protection of caseload as well as pressures to meet the demands of the ASYE taught programme as well as the assessment process.

The evaluation report also raises some wider organisational issues that affect the NQSWs’ experience of the ASYE process, such as staffing levels, hot-desking, and national policies. These external factors have influenced the NQSWs’ ability to balance their workload, access support, and apply their learning in practice.

The evaluation report concludes that despite these challenges, all NQSWs in this review have passed the programme. This is an important achievement to acknowledge and reflects the overall quality of the programme and the staff involved in it.

If you are interested in reading more about this evaluation report, you will find more information on the aims, methods, findings, and recommendations of this research project.

If you are a newly qualified social worker working in safeguarding practice or a related role, or if you are involved in supporting or assessing NQSWs in this area, you may find this report useful and relevant for your own practice development. 

Meet the author(s)

Professor Lee-Ann Fenge

Director of the Centre for Seldom Heard Voices
Lee-Ann is Professor of Social Care in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. She is a Registered Social Worker and has always been committed to advancing the professional evidence base of social care practitioners.
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Emily Rosenorn-Lanng

Emily Rosenorn-Lanng is a researcher and project manager at the National Centre for Cross Disciplinary Social Work (NCCDSW) at Bournemouth University. She has over 19 years of experience in conducting and managing various research projects in health and social care, local government, tourism and heritage sectors. She specialises in quantitative research methods, game-based learning, generative AI, cybersecurity, and accessibility. She is also pursuing a part-time PhD in game-based learning in Cyber Security education. She has published several research papers and reports on topics such as mental capacity, cyber fraud, child mortality, leadership development, and more. She has also participated in the InnovateUK cyberasap program, a pre-accelerator for cyber security start-ups.
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