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Social work qualifications

The social work degree is the professional qualification for social workers in Wales and throughout the UK. The title social worker is protected. Only people with a social work professional qualification can practise as social workers. Social workers are expected to increase their knowledge and skills after they qualify.

Social work qualifying education

Social workers promote well-being and improve outcomes for people. They focus on what matters to the people who need their care and support.

Social workers need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • resilience
  • knowledge of law and policy
  • knowledge of social work theory.

To qualify as a social worker in Wales you must complete a course approved by us.

The social work qualification has equal amounts of academic and practical learning. You can study it at graduate or post graduate levels. Universities run programmes in partnership with local authority social work services.

Welsh universities offering the undergraduate degree

Welsh universities offering the Masters degree

First three years of practice

Social workers need a set of skills based on knowledge, values and personal attributes. These can’t be fully developed through a qualifying course alone and professional development is necessary for social workers as they become experienced practitioners.

We have worked with the Care Inspectorate Wales to develop guidance to help with social workers’ development after qualifying. This brings together what is expected of social workers and their employers.

The first three years of practice has three stages:

  • Induction into professional social work.
  • Growing in competence and confidence.
  • Consolidation Programme and renewal of registration with us.

With training, support and practice, social workers develop their skills in increasingly complicated situations.

Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) Framework for Social Workers

The CPEL Framework supports social workers while they practise and progress through their careers. The framework has four courses (called programmes). The programmes are evaluated to ensure they continue to meet the needs of social workers. The most recent evaluation report is available.

The Consolidation Programme for Newly Qualified Social Workers

This is for social workers in their first social work role after qualifying.

If you qualified after 1st April 2016 you’ll need to complete this Programme to renew your professional registration.

The programme is delivered by:

  • Porth Agored in association with University of Wales Trinity St David
  • University of South Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

The programme requirements can be found on our regulation of social work training guidance page.

Experienced Practice in Social Work (EPSW) Programme

This is for social workers in their third year of practice (or beyond). Their role includes working with a wide range of situations including complex ones.

The programme is delivered by:

  • Cardiff University in alliance with Bangor, Glyndwr and Swansea Universities.

Senior Practice in Social Work (SPSW) Programme

This is for social workers in senior roles. Their role includes:

  • complex social work practice
  • supervising and supporting social work colleagues
  • practice research
  • the development of the service.

The programme is delivered by:

  • Cardiff University in alliance with Bangor, Glyndwr and Swansea Universities.

Consultant Social Work (CSW) Programme

This is for social workers in expert roles. Their role includes:

  • complex social work practice
  • consulting on practice issues
  • education and training for social work colleagues or leading practice research and development.

The programme is delivered by:

  • Cardiff University in alliance with Bangor, Glyndwr and Swansea Universities.

There is more information on these programmes on Cardiff University's website.

The Continuing Professional Education and Learning (CPEL) Framework for social workers is currently under review

We plan to publish a consultation document on a revised framework in late 2019. The last intake onto the Cardiff University CPEL programmes - Experienced Practice, Senior Practice and Consultant Social Work programmes was in September 2018 and as such the CPEL Alliance will have fulfilled its commission. It is on this basis that the current arrangements will come to an end in 2020. The review means there will be no new intake onto these CPEL programmes in 2019. Following consultation new arrangements will be put in place

It is of course essential to note that a significant number of social workers have achieved CPEL awards and modules under the current framework. An independent evaluation confirms the immense value of the programmes and the improvements in knowledge, skills and confidence gained. All awards achieved will continue to be valued and recognised and clearly referenced in a revised framework.

We are also working with Cardiff University to ensure current CPEL students are fully supported to complete their studies.

We are extremely grateful to Cardiff University and Alliance partners at Swansea, Bangor and Glyndwr Universities for the on-going quality of learning delivered, the innovative approach to the programme delivery, their excellent team work and partnership with us.

The Consolidation Programme is not part of this review and there are no further changes planned for these programmes beyond those being introduced as a result of the recent review.

Other post qualifying courses

Approved Mental Health Professional AMHP

AMHPs are trained to apply elements of mental health law with medical practitioners. This can be a social worker and other professionals including community psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists. The programme is delivered by Swansea University.

Practice learning and assessment of social work students

Supporting and assessing social work students’ practice is vital. It helps decide if they have the skills and knowledge to become a social worker.

The programme is delivered by:

  • Cardiff University
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • University of South Wales
  • Swansea University.

Team Manager Development

Delivered by The Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University the Team Manager Development Programme supports the delivery of excellent social work practice by enabling front-line managers to improve practice quality, manage their team effectively and handle change successfully. The programme is 

Middle Manager Development

Delivered by The Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University the Middle Manager Development Programme supports managers to respond to the requirements of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Last updated: 19 September 2019