Honours Degree in Social Work - Advice for Applicants. Contents. Introducing the NISCC. The Honours Degree in Social Work

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1 February 2016

2 Honours Degree in Social Work - Advice for Applicants Contents Introducing the NISCC The Honours Degree in Social Work What does the Degree offer students? Routes to the Degree in NI Admission requirements for the Degree Academic Criteria Mature Students Students with a Disability Applying to the Degree NI interview and selection process Financial support for NI students Students applying from outside NI Useful checklist before choosing Social Work

3 Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) is the regulatory body for the social care workforce in NI and it operates a Social Care Register which includes a part specifically for social work students. The purpose of NISCC Social Care Workforce Registration is to ensure that social care workers and social workers, including social work students, are suitable to work or undertake practice learning opportunities in the social care sector. NISCC is also responsible for regulating social work training to ensure all social workers are trained to the highest standard to undertake the job expected of them. As part of this process NISCC holds the statutory duty of promoting, approving and quality assuring social work education and training at both Degree (qualifying) and Professional in Practice (post qualifying) level. The Honours Degree in Social Work The Degree in Social Work (the Degree) is the recognised professional qualification for all social workers throughout the UK, as well as for Probation Officers and Education Officers in Northern Ireland, and Criminal Justice Social Workers in Scotland. This is an Honours Degree level qualification based on the Northern Ireland Framework Specification, which sets out the values, knowledge and practice requirements for the degree. Approximately half of the Degree course is assessed practice learning in the workplace What does the Degree offer students? The Degree is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to cope with the broad range of people they will work with and the communities in which they live. It will enable students to understand, work with and value people as individuals. They will need to be able to assess people s needs and help them to make choices to improve their quality of life. Therefore, the Degree offers a generic training, which will prepare students to work across a range of social work settings and sectors, making it possible to move between jobs and gain a wide range of experience during their career. Practice Learning for the Degree All students will be allocated appropriate practice learning opportunities (PLOs) by the regional allocation system. The Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership (NIDSWP) is responsible for the allocation of PLOs. Allocation is determined by availability and can be anywhere in NI. Students must, therefore, be prepared to travel distances to their allocated PLOs and relocate if this is required.

4 Routes to the Degree In NI the Degree is available on a full-time and part-time basis. 3 Year Full-time Undergraduate Route (UGR) 5 Year Part-time Undergraduate Route (UGR) 2 Year Relevant Graduate Route (RGR) Undergraduate Route (UGR) - Full-time 3 Year Course The 3 Year UGR is available at the following three educational institutions: Queen s University of Belfast (QUB) - University of Ulster, Magee (UUM) - Belfast Metropolitan College, Belfast (BMC) - Students who chose to undertake the full-time Degree through Belfast Metropolitan College, Belfast (BMC) should note that year three of their Degree will be delivered at the University of Ulster, Magee (UUM). Year 1 and 2 will be delivered at BMC. Full-time 2 Year RGR The RGR is a two year accelerated route for applicants who already hold a relevant honours degree. The RGR is only available at: Queens University, Belfast University of Ulster at Magee Part-time Route to the Degree in Social Work The part-time route to the Degree in Social Work allows students to spread the three year undergraduate course over five years and it is only available at: Queens University, Belfast University of Ulster at Magee Admission Requirements for the Degree To be eligible for entry to the Degree, applicants must demonstrate that they have the potential to train to be a Social Worker at degree level - this means they must: Meet academic entry requirements set by their chosen university/institution. Pass a suitability for training to be a social worker interview Be suitable to be registered as a social work student with NISCC.

5 Academic Entry Criteria for the Degree Academic criteria for the Degree courses are set by the academic institutions and may vary accordingly. Applicants are advised to check with the admissions teams at each institution to confirm current entry requirements for the year they are applying to the Degree. Generally, requirements will be as follows: 3 Year Full-time Undergraduate Route (UGR) GCSE English and Maths (minimum grade C), or equivalent recognised by the university, Essential Skills, Level 2 (Application of Number) is not considered equivalent to GCSE Maths). 3 A Levels or other accepted equivalent qualifications e.g. HND, BTEC, Access, Open University, Irish Leaving Certificate, NVQ Level 4 Health & Social Care plus a supplementary exam will be considered by UU only. 5 Year Part-time Route Undergraduate Route (UGR) Same entry criteria as the 3 Year UGR; plus A minimum of 3 years sustained paid or voluntary work experience in social care or a related field (education, health, community or youth work) within the previous 5 year period. 2 Year Full-time Relevant Graduate Route (RGR) GCSE English and Maths (minimum grade C), or equivalent recognised by the university, Essential Skills, Level 2 (Application of Number) is not considered equivalent to GCSE Maths). A relevant Honours degree at 2:2 or above (HNC/HND qualifications do not meet this criteria) A degree (second class lower division or higher) will be deemed to be a relevant degree where at least 33% of the course passed at Honours level comprises one or more of the following: Sociology, Psychology, Social Policy, Social Administration, Law, Teaching, Nursing, Community Work, Youth Work, Early Childhood Studies and other cognate subjects at the discretion of the course provider. (Graduates with a relevant honours degree can also apply to the 3 Year Undergraduate Route.) Guidance for those with alternative qualifications Applicants with alternative qualifications should contact the Admissions Office of the university/college of their choice for further advice on what courses to undertake or to check if the qualifications they hold will be accepted as equivalent. Alternatively, applicants can contact the following for further advice on access to higher education and suitable courses:

6 Driving licence (access to transport) Students are strongly advised to hold a current driving licence or have access to a form of transport to attend their practice learning placements (PLO). Students cannot be guaranteed a Practice Learning Placement (PLO) close to their home or institution and may need to travel. Interview - Assessment of applicant s suitability to train to be a social worker As well as meeting academic entry requirements, all applicants being considered for a place on the Degree course in NI will be interviewed to assess their potential to train as a social worker at degree level. All applicants are therefore advised to have some relevant experience. This may include: life experience, voluntary work, paid work or a mixture of all three. Mature Students Candidates with substantial experience in social care, or a related career, but holding alternative qualifications such as access courses are encouraged to apply if they meet the current entry criteria for the Degree. These students will need to demonstrate their potential to study at honours degree level and their applications will be considered on an individual basis. Students with a Disability Increasing numbers of people with a disability are expressing an interest in the Degree. As social work is a demanding occupation and will require a range of physical abilities to undertake the role, it is advisable to discuss your prospective application with the academic institution All higher academic institutions have support services in place to help students with a disability take full advantage of higher education opportunities. Student support workers are employed to provide information on what is available for students with a disability including eligibility for funding from the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or any other appropriate source of funding. More information about DSA can be obtained by logging on to Applying to the Degree in NI All applications for the full-time Degrees in NI (including Belfast Met and the Relevant Graduate Route) are through the UCAS on-line system at UCAS Customer Service Unit will be able to assist with queries about the application process. UCAS opens the system for applications to the full-time courses in NI open from September each year and closes the following January (normally around 15 January. All applications to the part-time Degree in Social Work are via direct entry to the universities offering this route. Late UCAS applications UCAS will accept completed application forms until the following June (normally 30 June) but they will be stamped late and only forwarded to those courses that still have vacancies. Applicants considering making a late application are advised to contact the universities/institutions of their

7 choice and ask if they are still considering applications. If places are still available, applications can be downloaded from the UCAS website at In practice, it is very unlikely that late applications will be considered for social work courses in NI. UCAS Process for applications Acknowledgement of applications applicants receive a Welcome Letter from UCAS confirming their details and the courses they have applied for, which they must confirm is correct. The Welcome Letter also provides details of the applicant s application number which they will need to access the tracking system. This system allows applicants to keep up to date with the progress of their application, respond to offers made and amend their personal details if necessary. Shortlisting by universities/institutions initially applicants are shortlisted on the basis of their UCAS/university application form. This is to ensure that the university/institution s minimum academic entry requirements have been/are likely to be met. This may also include consideration of the personal statement on the UCAS/university form and applicants are encouraged to express their interest in social work at this stage. Suitability for social work training in NI Personal Statement & Interview The following process will then be applied to each applicant who has met the university/institution academic entry requirements. Stage 1: Suitability for training for social work word personal statement (completed under exam conditions from Sept 2016) Stage 2: Suitability for training for social work - interview Stage 3: Offers/Confirmation of offer Stage 4: Application to register as a student on the NISCC Social Care Register Stage 1: Suitability for training for social work word personal statement All applicants who meet the universities/institutions entry criteria will be required to complete an additional 600 word personal statement on their knowledge of and aptitude for social work training. All applicants will be selected for the interview on the basis of this statement. This statement must be prepared under exam conditions from September 2016 When applicants are completing this additional personal statement, they must provide a typed response of not more than 600 words that clearly answers the questions provided.

8 At this stage it is important to highlight any relevant experience that they have gained to indicate their knowledge and/or understanding of social work and social services and to explain how their experience relates to social work. It is also important for applicants to express their interest in social work, stating clearly their motivation and reasons for applying. Stage 2: Suitability for training for social work - interview The interview will assess if the applicant is suitable to train to be a Social Worker at degree level. Only those successful at the interview will be considered for offers. Interview panels will consist of a minimum of two interviewers: one from an educational establishment one from a statutory or voluntary social care organisation. Applicants are given the opportunity to highlight any practical/personal experience and knowledge they have about social work and social services. The practical/personal experience applicants have gained from previous paid or voluntary work should help them understand some of the rewards and demands of working in a caring profession. It should inform their knowledge and understanding of social work and social services. Points to consider for interview What has motivated you to apply to train to be a social worker? Do you understand the role of Social Workers and social services? Can you demonstrate some basic social work skills? Have you the ability to be flexible and open to new ideas and attitudes? Are you able to respect and respond to different cultures and perspectives? How have you obtained these attributes, knowledge and understanding? How has your academic training to date prepared you for a career in social work? Read and understood the Degree Partnership guidance for social work interviews on the NISCC website Stage 3: Offers/Confirmation of offer Every university/institution applied to will respond to each applicant individually through UCAS. There may be a variation in the grades, which each university/institution requires for entry, or the type of offer made. The applicant must then inform UCAS of the offer(s) they wish to accept and the order of preference. Applicants are advised to refer to the UCAS handbook and correspondence for the specific details that affect their choice at this stage. Applicants are expected to honour their commitments at Confirmation. If they are placed at a university/institution in the UCAS system, they must take up that place or withdraw completely from that year s application cycle. They cannot turn down an offer and then enter Clearing or deal with any other institution which recruits through UCAS.

9 Applicants who are unsuccessful in obtaining a place on a Degree course in NI will become eligible for the UCAS UK wide If applicants do decide to take up a place outside of NI within the UK, they will not be eligible to apply to the DHSSPS student incentive scheme. Stage 4: Application to register as a student on the NISCC Social Care Register NISCC is responsible, by law, for ensuring that all Social Workers are registered as fit to practise. This includes Social Work Students. All applicants to the Degree in NI must be assessed as suitable for registration on the Social Work Student part of the NISCC Social Care Register when they start their course. Students cannot undertake practice learning if they are not NISCC registered students. NISCC registration is completed online through the NISCC Online Registration Portal. Course tutors will advise students how to enrol online with NISCC after their place on the Degree course is confirmed. NISCC registration assesses an applicant s suitability by asking the applicant to complete a registration application form which requires information about: Social Care employment history and disciplinary record All criminal offences including conviction, caution or binding over they have received, or which they may have proceeding against them Any health condition(s) that may prevent them from practising social work safely. Telling NISCC about a criminal record or health condition will not necessarily prevent a social work student from becoming registered. All information provided will be treated in confidence. NISCC will consider the information provided and will take account of a range of factors before making a decision on registration. Applicants who fail to declare this information may be referred to a NISCC Registration or Conduct Committee and their registration may not be approved. Registration fees Students are required to pay NISCC a fee when they first apply for registration and then pay a fee every year to maintain their registration. Further information is available from the registration section of the NISCC website Criminal Records Check All of those working in social care roles must have a criminal record check completed. Before students undertake their first Practice Learning Opportunity, they must have a criminal record check carried out. The universities/colleges will provide more information about this. Education authority financial support for NI students Before applying to or accepting a place on a social work course (within or outside NI) students should explore all funding options to check what financial support they are eligible for. NISCC does not have the authority or funding to provide any financial assistance to social work students. These functions are carried out by: Education authority student finance offices in NI - who have the responsibility to assess student s eligibility for student support under the Student Support Regulations.

10 Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety for NI (DHSSPS (NI)) who offer a discretionary Incentive Scheme to support eligible social work students studying in NI. All applicants should contact the student finance section of their local Education and Library Board for more information on what is available, and if they are eligible for financial support. Full-time social work students in NI may be eligible for financial support from their Education and Library Board. This can include access to student loans, fee loans, educational maintenance grants, disability allowances or childcare allowances. Part-time students are not normally able to access fee loans or maintenance grants from the education and library boards but may be able to access allowances DHSSPS social work student incentive scheme The DHSSPSNI offers an Incentive Scheme to attract students domiciled in NI to study the Degree in Social Work in NI. The Incentive Scheme is designed to encourage people from a wide range of backgrounds to study social work and is available only to those who are residents and have obtained an approved Degree in Social Work place in NI. The Incentive Scheme* is open to both full-time and part-time students. More information on the current arrangements for the Incentive Scheme for the Degree in Social Work and how to apply can be obtained by contacting the DHSSPS as follows: Office of Social Services, Administration Office, DHSSPS, Room C4, 22, Castle Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3SQ Tel: Web: (Please note: The Incentive Scheme is currently under review by the DHSSPS (NI).) Funding for students applying from outside NI GB Students Students domiciled in Scotland, Wales or England will not be eligible to benefit from the DHSSPS NI Student Incentive Scheme. Such students should contact their local education authority (LEA) for details of financial support available to them. Students from Wales and Scotland should also contact their relevant social care council for more information about financial assistance as follows; and Students from England should also contact the NHS Business Services Authority who administers bursaries for healthcare and social work students on behalf of the Department of Health as follows; EU Students If a student has been accepted on to a NISCC approved Degree course in NI, but is normally resident outside of NI, they will not be eligible to benefit from the DHSSPS scheme, unless they have been resident in NI for 3 years or more before the start date of a course. EC students who do not meet the DHSSPS residency criteria for funding support should contact:

11 The EU Customer Services Team, Student Loans Company, Room 38, Mowden Hall, Staindrop Road, Darlington, Co. Durham DL3 9BG Tel: (10am to 4pm) Advice for social workers qualifying in GB and wishing to practise in NI NISCC will register Social Workers who have qualified elsewhere in the UK, provided they have undertaken an approved social work course. This refers to social work courses that have been approved by one of the four social care councils within the UK. The four social care councils are: Care Council for Wales (CCWales) Wales Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) - England NI Social Care Council (NISCC) Northern Ireland Scottish Social Care Council (SSSC) Scotland Useful checklist Before choosing Social Work, you should take time to think about the following questions and how you would answer them. Why do you want to become a Social Worker? Have you the right qualities to become a Social Worker? Are you resilient enough to manage the training and the challenges of the job? What relevant experience do you have? If not, how are you going to achieve this? Have you the required academic qualifications - if not, how are you going to obtain these before making an application to Social Work? Where are you considering training i.e. what college or university are you thinking of applying to and have you researched their Social Work programmes? What financial support are you eligible for and how do you obtain this? What do you know about registration with the NISCC? Have you checked out the NISCC website at

12 Further Information and Advice NISCC Customer Services The NISCC Workforce Development Team promotes social care and social work careers to the general public, careers advisory staff, education providers, employers and our stakeholders. As part of this work, we have developed a range of guidance which is available from the careers section of the NISCC website Contact the NISCC Customer Service Team if you need advice on choosing a social work course or if you need to speak to a member of the Workforce Development Team about your career choice. or call (Lines open Mon-Fri & ). Northern Ireland Social Care Council 7th Floor, Millennium House Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7AQ Tel: Web: Please note that while every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this leaflet is accurate at the time of going to print, the NISCC does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided. NISCC February 2016

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