1 February 2017 11:45

A new social work teaching partnership will support ambitious plans to further develop social work education and practice across the region, following a successful bid to the Department for Education to secure two-year funding.

The Cumbria-Lancaster Social Work Teaching Partnership includes Lancaster University, Cumbria County Council and four allied organisations from the private, voluntary and / or independent sector in Cumbria - Barnardo’s, South Lakeland District Carers, Howgill Family Centre and East Cumbria Family Support.

The partnership starts with immediate effect and work has already started on the programme of reform.

Existing staff will contribute to the implementation plan and three dedicated practice development workers will be recruited to work between the university and the council to lead the changes and developments.

The partnership aims to ensure more people with the right skills; experience and professionalism are recruited to qualifying programmes and take up posts with Cumbria County Council and allied partners.

It also seeks to increase the quantity and quality of practice placements to ensure that more Lancaster University students experience two statutory placements, to better prepare students for employment after graduation.

The partnership also hopes to bring the university and the council into closer alignment, to ensure that qualifying and post-qualifying education meets the needs of employers and improves the retention of qualified workers.

The partnership will also seek to increase the involvement of the council and partners in classroom-based learning and in student recruitment; ensure the Chief Social Worker’s Knowledge and Skills Statements are embedded in knowledge and practice; develop a shared understanding and datasets concerning workforce needs to inform forecasting and planning (recruitment, retention, training needs); and to promote evidence-based practice and embedding of research in practice.

The teaching partnership will establish learning hubs in the North, West and South of Cumbria that will become the focal point for academic, practice and service user exchange and the vehicle for student support.

The hubs will align with the Cumbria Social Work Academy.

Professor Karen Broadhurst, of Lancaster University, said: 

“This is an excellent opportunity to work more closely with our Cumbria partners and to showcase developments nationally. Cumbria’s expansive rural context does present some challenge in terms of both student placement and reaching a qualified workforce and we are keen to explore how these challenges can be overcome.”

John Macilwraith, Director of Children’s Services at Cumbria County Council, said:

“The teaching partnership will enable us to work closely with Lancaster University and our partners to have clear practice focussed, professional career development pathways so that students are better prepared for the transition from University, into our social work academy.

“We will also develop comprehensive development programmes for all our social workers to reach their full potential so that we retain talented social workers in Cumbria.”