DfE praise for Step Up to Social Work in Somerset

The Department for Education (DfE) has praised Somerset County Council’s work to develop Children’s Social Care through the Step Up to Social Work programme.

The County Council is the lead authority for the Step Up to Social Work programme in the South West. Its Children and Families Learning and Development Team has been working hard with other councils in the South West to search for talented graduates who could become Somerset’s next generation of Children’s Social Workers.

Assessment centre days took place recently in Taunton and Gloucestershire for the shortlisted candidates. Of the 106 applicants invited to interview, 87 attended for half a day of intensive assessment which included a formal interview with role play exercise, a group ‘speed interviewing’ by service users, a written exercise and two written self-evaluations.

John Hall, from the Social Work Reform Unit at the DfE, attended one of the assessment centres and said: “We have been impressed by the level of planning, commitment and collaboration across the region that Somerset has led.

“This showed in the quality of the assessment centre days that Somerset and its partners held for potential candidates.

“Being the lead organisation for the Step Up programme across a region is not an easy task, but Somerset has clearly risen to the challenge and we congratulate everyone involved.”

As the lead authority, Somerset County Council also had to provide members for all interview panels, including those of partners interviewing candidates for North Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire and Swindon.

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “It is very encouraging to hear such praise from the DfE for the Step Up to Social Work Programme so early on in the process. This work with our partners in other authorities across the South West will help ensure Children’s Social Care is well equipped with talented social workers across the region.

“The assessment centre days were just the beginning and a lot of work will follow to ensure that the successful candidates qualify as fully fledged Social Workers in early 2017.”

Following the assessment centres, the South West Partnership will make the final selection of 26 successful candidates who will be advised of the outcome during the week commencing 3 August 2015. Eight of the trainees will be based within Somerset.

There is still much work to be done on programme development, candidate induction, skills days, placement planning and ‘keeping in touch days’ before the successful trainees start the programme in January 2016.

The Step Up to Social Work programme supports national and local Children’s Social Care recruitment and retention priorities. Somerset County Council is leading a consortium of six local authorities across the South West, which includes Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Swindon Borough Council and Gloucestershire County Council.