Somerset’s successful second bid to train new children’s social workers

A partnership of South West local authorities led by Somerset County Council has successfully bid for Government funding to train a further 49 children’s social workers.

The Government’s Step Up to Social Work programme encourages graduates with experience of working with children and young people to train for social work. Student social workers are placed in a council setting so that they can gain hands-on practitioner experience while they study.

This will be the second time Somerset has worked with partners to deliver the programme, with the first 28 trainees due to become fully fledged social workers for six local authorities in March 2017.

A new, expanded partnership has been established for this year’s programme, with eleven South West councils involved in securing the funding from the Department for Education.

Forty-nine high calibre trainee social workers will learn the essential skills needed to take on this difficult role while working for one of the local authorities. Eight of those trainees will take on placements across Somerset County Council’s Children’s Services.

One of Somerset’s trainees wrote a number of blogs about her experience and said: “The support I have been offered by the team and management has been fantastic, as has the range of work I have been able to get involved with. This includes assessments, direct work, chairing meetings, auditing case work and more.

“The programme attracted graduates with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. It’s helpful to talk things through with the other Step Up students, and in Somerset we have a regular peer supervision group. One of the best resources is the informal Facebook group we have formed which gives us all quick access to a wide range of information and resources through sharing or posting questions.”

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “Our first intake of Step Up to Social Work trainees will be graduating in March and have done a wonderful job of stepping up to the challenges that social workers can face.

“In Somerset, we offer a hugely rewarding career in children’s social care, and we are making good progress achieving our ambition for a permanent workforce. Recent monitoring reports from Ofsted have highlighted the progress we have made.

“We are all aware there is a national shortage of high calibre social workers. Our strategy to tackle this in Somerset focuses both on the retention of high quality social workers already in post and on growing our own.  Social workers already here are offered low caseloads and supportive supervision.  At the same time we are growing our own new social workers through learning and development opportunities including Step Up to Social Work. I look forward to welcoming the new intake of trainees when they begin their placements in January 2018.”

Applications for the programme open 28 March 2017 and close 5 May 2017. Successful applicants will begin their training in January 2018.

In the meantime, the Department for Education is encouraging people to register their interest for the next intake. Click here to register your interest.

You can read the Step Up to Social Work blogs and others by visiting

The Step Up to Social Work programme supports national and local Children’s Social Care recruitment and retention priorities. Somerset County Council is currently 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. This consortium will now be joined by five further local authorities: Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, Bristol City Council, Devon County Council and Cornwall County Council.