A new report has revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic had both a positive and negative impact on newly qualified social workers in Wales.
The ‘Covid-19 and the impact on newly qualified social workers report’, which we commissioned from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), looks at the effect of the pandemic on BSc and MA Social Work students who graduated between 2019 and 2021.
The report reveals the challenges faced by graduates, but also highlights some of the benefits of the new ways of working introduced during the pandemic and presents a series of recommendations for employers based on its findings.
David Pritchard, Director of Regulation at Social Care Wales, said: “One of the most positive aspects identified in the report is the strength of partnership between universities and local authorities, which helped ease the process of responding to changes and challenges as they emerged.
“Local authorities and universities were also commended for the support they offered through online workshops.”
Other positives include the support newly qualified social workers offered each other through workshops, groups and informal communication. Remote working was also seen to offer some benefits as it allowed more time to focus on work and an improved work life balance.
But the report also identifies many challenges caused by the pandemic.
David Pritchard added: “The report reveals that many newly qualified social workers felt that working away from an office environment meant they had less informal support and had fewer opportunities to learn from colleagues. Online working was also seen as more ‘clinical’ and didn’t allow for spontaneous interactions.
“The pandemic also had a detrimental effect on well-being, and some felt it was difficult to disconnect from work.
“Another challenge highlighted is the difficulty caused by wider issues within the sector such as staff shortages and problems with recruitment and retention, which led to a lack of support for some.”
The report contains several recommendations for employers to help them address the challenges faced by their newly qualified social workers. These include making well-being and improved working conditions a priority, allowing more time for workplace development, offering support networks and buddy systems, and creating extra learning opportunities.
David Pritchard said: “It’s clear that the past few years have been difficult but it’s reassuring to see that there have been some positives, too. Hopefully the recommendations in the report will offer universities and employers new strategies to deal with the challenges and improve the experiences of newly qualified social workers entering the workplace.”