Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership. Practice Learning Opportunities. Information for Students

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1 Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership Practice Learning Opportunities. Information for Students Revised: August 2012

2 CONTENTS PAGE Introduction 3 What is a Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO)? 5 Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) Requirements 5 Organising PLOs 6 Allocation of PLOs 6 Regional Allocation Individual Circumstances Caring Responsibilities Notification of PLO Requesting a review of PLO allocation. Travel Refusal of a PLO Offer Conditions Applying to PLOs 11 Student responsibilities Conflict of interest Hours of work Declarations POCVA Check Pre PLO visit Undertaking work of PLO Travel Requirements NISCC Registration NISCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers 14 Using Social Networks References 15 Frequently asked questions 16 Appendices 19 Notification of Refusal of PLO Offer 2

3 Introduction. This guidance has been developed to give you an overall picture of the organisation of Practice Learning Opportunities (PLO) and your responsibilities as a student undertaking professional Social Work education and training. Please read the information carefully so that you fully understand the process and so that you can make maximum use of the Practice Learning experience. Work based practice learning is an integral part of the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work. Throughout your time on the Degree in Social Work Programme you will be required to undertake a total of 225 days of practice learning, of which: 25 days must be spent in preparation for direct work with service users 185 days must be in direct supervised practice; 85 days at level 2 and 100 days at level 3; and 15 days to be used for individual practice development. (NISCC: August 2010) This guidance primarily relates to the two periods of direct supervised practice. During these periods you will be required to meet the learning requirements as set out by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) and achieve competence in each of the 21 practice foci. Appropriate staff will be available to ensure that suitable learning opportunities are available to enable you to meet the requirements. These staff will also support you to achieve the level of confidence and competence required. You will have a practice teacher who has responsibility for assessing your learning and competence. In circumstances where your Practice Teacher is not based at the practice learning site you will be assigned an on-site facilitator /supervisor who will provide you with support and guidance on an on- going basis. 3

4 We hope this guidance will help you to understand the process for allocating practice learning opportunities and answer many of the questions you may have before PLO commences. We wish you well for the Degree in Social Work Programme and successful and enjoyable practice experiences. Roy Blair Chair Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership 4

5 What is a Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO)? A practice learning opportunity (PLO) refers to the period of time a student spends in a practice setting. The practice learning experience aims to provide you with the opportunities to develop understanding, knowledge, skills, values and ethics in social work practice. In each PLO you are required to demonstrate progress commensurate with the level of the programme. Each PLO will also provide opportunities to develop anti-oppressive practice. As an adult learner you have a responsibility to use the PLO to maximise learning and to use the support provided to promote your personal and professional development. Northern Ireland Social Care Council Requirements. The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC), the regulatory body for social work/social care requires all students to spend 185 days in direct supervised practice. Over the course of the Degree students should have opportunities to gain experience of: Carrying out statutory social work tasks; At least two different settings; Providing services to at least two service user groups; Group care; Working with at least two other professions; The contested nature, scope and purpose of social work in a diverse society; Participating in formal decision making forums; Participating in and presenting evidence in courts or tribunals or other formal hearings; and Applying community development approaches in social work. (NISCC: August 2010) The Framework Specification for the Degree in Social Work in Northern Ireland (NISCC: 2003) details the six key roles and 21 practice foci which you must demonstrate competence and confidence in as a qualifying social worker. 5

6 As a social work student registered with NISCC you must also demonstrate that you are able to adhere to the NISCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers (2002). Course Providers including HEIs and Employer organisations all share responsibility for enabling the NISCC requirements to be met. You also have responsibility for your own learning, practice and professional development throughout the social work course. Organising Practice Learning Opportunities. Across Northern Ireland five Health and Social Care Trusts, Voluntary Agencies, Department of Justice,( including Probation Board NI and Youth Justice) and 5 Education and Library Boards provide PLOs across all settings and programmes of care. Northern Ireland has a tradition of providing high quality PLOs and while it is undoubtedly a challenge to meet the level of demand, course providers work in partnership to ensure that the number required is attained. It must however be appreciated that due to a range of contributory factors the preferences of students cannot always be accommodated. There is close collaboration between Practice Learning Coordinators of the Agencies providing PLOs and the University/College Coordinators. Where it is deemed that a PLO can appropriately provide a student with learning opportunities to demonstrate competence and appropriate to their stage of education and training it is expected that the student will accept that PLO. Allocation of PLOs. Regional Allocation The Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership (NIDSWP) is responsible for the allocation of PLOs via the Practice Learning and Allocations Committee. Practice Learning Opportunities are allocated through a regional process and allocation meetings take place twice a year: - In May for allocation of PLOs commencing the following August - In October for PLOs commencing the following January. 6

7 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and all those Designated Practice Learning Providers (DPLPs) involved in the delivery of the Degree in Social Work are represented on the Regional Allocation Group by a Practice Learning Coordinator. Prior to the allocation meetings students are required to complete a student profile and where appropriate an individual circumstances form. This must be done in consultation with your personal tutor. This will be used by the University/College Practice Learning Coordinator to assist the Allocation Group to match students to PLOs. In making an application for consideration of individual circumstances you are consenting to the information being shared with the allocations group and with the Practice Learning Provider. This is stated on the form and in signing it you are providing your consent. Students can be assured that information will only be shared in circumstances where they have given explicit permission and you will be consulted in terms of whom it will be shared with. You need to state clearly on your profile whether or not you hold a full driving licence and use of a car as the majority of PLOs require the use of a car. Requests from students to be allocated to a specific PLO will not be accepted. Students must never approach an agency or an individual practice teacher personally or via third parties to request a PLO or to canvass a PLO. Such practice will be viewed as inappropriate and will be dealt with as a serious matter. Individual Circumstances. The Allocation Group is chaired by a Trust Senior Manager. There is a clear protocol for the sequencing of allocation and clear criteria for the consideration of specific individual circumstances. Guidance on the criteria is available with the application form and the student should discuss any specific needs with his/her personal tutor who will provide direction on the level of detail required. An application will only be considered in the allocations process when a student has a disability as defined within the Disability Discrimination Act Students are encouraged to discuss 7

8 their specific requirements with their personal tutor at the earliest opportunity. Ideally this should be at the beginning of the course. It is acknowledged however that students may have a disability at point of entry and others may acquire a disability after the programme has commenced. Other students may have variable conditions and require supports at particular times during the course including the periods of work based learning (PLO). A student has the right to not disclose a disability; however in such circumstances he/she must understand that it is probable that supports will not be substantially different to those for all students. Neither the academic institution nor DPLP can be accused of disability related discrimination if they do not know and could not be reasonably expected to know that an individual is disabled. As already stated a student has the right to not disclose. PLO providers however have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of service users, carers and colleagues including students. It is therefore essential that all students are fully aware of their responsibilities in terms of professional practice. The NISCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers (2002: 6) states that as a social care worker you must be accountable for the quality of your work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving your knowledge and skills. This includes: informing your employer or the appropriate authority about any personal difficulties that might affect your ability to do your job competently and safely. (6.3) Registration with NISCC also requires individuals to make a declaration about their health. Non- disclosure where there might be a risk to the safety /welfare of service users, other staff or self could have serious implications. Caring Responsibilities Organisations have Family Friendly policies and may be prepared to accommodate a degree of flexibility. Students, as is the case with employees do not have an automatic right to flexibility under family friendly policies. The needs of service users and the requirements of the agency are key factors when such requests are being considered. Students are also expected 8

9 to meet the practice learning requirements in terms of the number of days of attendance and 37.5 hours per week work based practice learning. The scheduling of allocations and subsequent notification of PLO is such that it provides opportunity for individuals to make arrangements, appropriate to their circumstances, prior to commencing PLO. Notification of PLOs Allocation of PLOs is determined by availability and with due regard to students learning needs. All PLOs are allocated to make the best use of the practice learning resources available to students. Students will be allocated to suitable PLOs throughout the course of the Degree in Social work and will be notified of these at the relevant time. Students commencing PLO in August will normally be notified by the University/Further Education College in early June. Students commencing PLO in January will normally be notified by the University/Further Education College in early December. Request for review of allocation of PLO Once the information about practice learning opportunities is available student requests for a change of PLO will only normally be considered where a significant change in circumstances has arisen in the interim between the allocation meeting and notification of PLO. The request for review of allocation must be made in writing to the University/FE Practice Learning Coordinator who will in turn submit it to the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership Office (normally within 10 days of notification of PLO). Student must state clearly the reason(s) why a review of PLO is being requested. This must be accompanied by appropriate documentary evidence which verifies the individual s change in circumstances. A Panel consisting of the Chair of the Allocation subgroup, the NIDSWP Professional Officer, an academic Practice Learning 9

10 Coordinator and two Agency Practice Learning Coordinators will meet to decide, on the basis of the information supplied whether or not grounds exist for a review. Once a request for review of allocation is received a decision will normally be made (within 10 days) and student will be notified accordingly. Where it is found that there are grounds to change a PLO an alternative PLO if available will be allocated as soon as is reasonably practicable. Availability is a key factor and there is no guarantee that an alternative PLO will be in the same setting, programme of care or geographical area as the one previously allocated. In circumstances where an appropriate PLO is not available the student may have to take time out of their studies. A request for a review of PLO allocation cannot normally be made after the deadline (two weeks before commencement date of PLO). If a difficulty arises after the deadline the Course Director must support the request before it will be considered. Late requests to the Degree Partnership must be made via the University Practice Learning Coordinator and supported by the Course Director. Requests to the Partnership via personal Tutors will not be accepted. The Partnership will only review allocation of a PLO where there is a clear change in circumstances which meets the defined criteria. It is the responsibility of personal Tutors and/or the Course Director to deal with other PLO issues raised by students including requests for reviews which would not be considered as falling within the defined individual circumstances. Requests for a change of PLO will not normally be considered post commencement of PLO. Should unforeseen circumstances arise during PLO the Degree in Social Work has systems in place to respond to these. A change of PLO post commencement will only be considered under the Protocol for Dealing With Factors Effecting Progression of Practice Learning December

11 Travel Practice Learning Opportunities cover a wide geographical area and travel is an implicit part of the Degree in Social Work Course. You will therefore be expected to travel and you will need to be prepared to travel to your PLO destination. Geographical location of PLOs is a key factor which impacts on the allocation process. In circumstances where a student refuses an offer of a PLO on the basis of travel she/he will not normally be offered an alternative PLO for that designated period of Practice Learning. Refusal of a Practice Learning Opportunity Offer Where a student refuses the offer of a PLO for any reason he/she must complete the Formal Notification of Refusal of PLO offer form (Appendix 1) clearly stating the reason(s). This must be verified by the Course Director and HEI Coordinator and a copy forwarded to the NIDSWP Office. Note: An alternative PLO will not normally be offered for that designated period of Practice Learning. It should be noted that these circumstances may result in the student having a gap before his/her studies can resume. Conditions applying to PLOs Student Responsibilities. (i) Conflict of Interest. Students must disclose at an early stage previous or current contact with an agency, e.g. service user, former /current employee/volunteer, any family member or close personal link to staff. It is important that you do not assume that it is unlikely that a conflict of interest will arise. You do not know where exactly you may be placed! Failure to disclose a potential conflict of interest may have implications for the allocation process. E.g. a conflict of interest emerges when the student is notified of the PLO and an alternative is not readily available. If in doubt seek guidance from your personal tutor. 11

12 (ii) Hours of work. Students are required to work 37.5 hours weekly which is the standard working hours for most agencies; some agencies may require work outside 9-5 office hours e.g. Young Persons Project may require evening work. Education Welfare setting may require home visits after school hours. Students located in residential and supported living settings will normally be required to work shifts which may include evenings, overnights and weekends. (iii) Declarations Students must declare any cautions, convictions or binding over whether or not spent and any pending matter. Students must agree to disclosure of same to any agency offering a PLO so that the appropriate staff personnel can be informed. Students must also disclose any significant sanction imposed by NISCC or a previous or current employer as a result of an investigation into practice/conduct. Students must also advise if they are being investigated under the HEI Fitness to Practice Procedures. You must advise the Course Director and your Practice Teacher in the event any caution, conviction, binding over or pending matter arises during the PLO period. As a condition of Registration you also have a responsibility to notify NISCC of any change in circumstances. Failure to do so may be treated as misconduct and could have very serious consequences. (iv) POCVA Checks A criminal record check under the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (NI) Order 2003(POCVA) is completed for all students before they commence each PLO. These checks are completed by Access NI. Once the check is completed you will receive an Enhanced Disclosure Certificate (EDC). It is essential that you keep your copy of the Enhanced Disclosure Certificate 12

13 as the organisation providing the PLO will want to view this document. Information contained within EDC is treated with sensitivity and as confidential, with only a very limited number of people needing to know the details. Practice learning providers reserve the right to withdraw the offer of a PLO. (v) Pre - PLO Visit You are required to make contact with your allocated PLO and Practice Teacher as soon as possible after receiving notification. You are expected to visit the PLO site prior to the commencement date. This allows you the opportunity to introduce yourself and to ask any pertinent questions. This visit also provides the opportunity to geographically locate the PLO, to meet the practice teacher and where appropriate the on-site facilitator. (vi) Undertaking work of PLO travel requirements In order to undertake the work of the agency while on PLO students who are car drivers will need to have business cover which includes a statement that he/she is permitted to carry service users while undertaking the work of the agency. Some insurance companies make a charge for this but others do not. Practice Learning Providers require proof of the following: A current valid full driving licence Certificate of insurance for the vehicle to be used Evidence that the insurance covers use to and from and within PLO Where applicable a current MOT certificate Vehicle registration details (vii) NISCC Registration It is your responsibility to ensure that you registered with NISCC as a social work student and that your registration is up- to date. You must be registered in order to commence 13

14 PLO. Any individual who does not have up-to-date registration as a social work student will not be allowed to commence PLO and this could result in having to take time out of the course. NISCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers In the interests of service users and as representatives of the social work profession, you are required at all times to adhere to the NISCC (2002) Code of Practice for Social Care Workers which states: Social care workers are responsible for making sure that their conduct does not fall below the standards set out in this code and that no action or omission on their part harms the wellbeing of service users Use of Social Networks Under code 5 of the Code you are required to uphold public trust and confidence in social care services whether you are in work or outside of work - this includes the use of social networking sites. Please refer to the NIDSWP Regional Practice Learning Handbook, August 2012 for further guidance on the use of social networks as issued by NISCC. 14

15 References: NIDSWP, 2010, Management and Reporting Process in relation to Factors Effecting Practice Learning Progress, Regional Practice Learning Handbook NISCC, Revised 2010, Practice Learning Requirements for the Degree in Social Work NISCC, 2003, Framework Specification for the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work. NISCC, Dec. 2002, Code of Practice for Social Care Workers NISCC, Revised January The Rules for the Approval of the Degree in Social Work NISCC, March NISCC (Registration) Rules NISCC, Revised September 2011, Registration of Social Work Students on the Social Care Register, Information for Social Work Course Providers. 15

16 Frequently Asked Questions. Q1. When will I find out where my PLO is? Students commencing PLO in August will normally be notified by their University/College in early June. Students commencing PLO in January will normally be notified by their University/College in early December. Q2. When should I get in touch with my PLO? Your Tutor will guide you but usually as soon as possible after notification of your PLO. It is your responsibility to arrange a pre- PLO visit. Q3. Who do I get in touch with? It is usually the Practice Teacher. If for some reason he/she is unavailable you should make contact with the Team /Agency Manager or where appropriate the On Site Facilitator. Q4. How do I get in touch? You will be provided with a PLO profile which will include contact details for Practice Teacher and where relevant the On - Site Facilitator/Supervisor. Q5. What kind of agency will I be placed in? The main criterion for PLO is that it enables you to meet the Key Roles and Practice Foci and the required level of competence appropriate to the level of study. Your PLO may be in one of the following settings: Residential, supported living, fieldwork team, day centre, training resource centre, family centre, young person s project, Education Welfare service, hospital, hospice. (This list is not exhaustive) These settings may be in the statutory or voluntary sectors. 16

17 You may be expected to work with one or more service user groups: older people, disabled people, people with learning disabilities, carers, children and families, people experiencing mental ill health, and offenders (list is not exhaustive). Q6. Will I get a variety of learning opportunities? You will normally get the opportunity to work in two different settings, for example, residential and fieldwork and with two service user groups. It should be noted however that geographical location and the requirement for use of a car in a significant number of PLOs does impact on the allocations process. Q7. What support will I receive on PLO? You will be allocated a Practice Teacher. If your Practice Teacher is off- site then an on- Site Facilitator/Supervisor will be identified to provide you with support and guidance on an on-going basis. You will also have University/College recall days during PLO and you will continue to have contact with your personal Tutor. Q8. Will I be able to undertake any paid employment during the PLO? It is highly likely that for fulltime students the opportunity for parttime work will be restricted due to the demands of the course and PLO practice learning hours. The PLO demands at least 37.5 hours work based practice learning commitment per week. Engaging in excessive hours of paid employment is likely to jeopardise your learning and possibly the PLO. The course is your first priority and any work you do undertake must come second to the demands of PLO. You cannot request time off or a different working pattern to facilitate paid employment. In order to avoid a possible conflict of interest it is important that you disclose at an early stage any previous or current employment with a social care agency. Do not assume that it is unlikely that a conflict of interest will arise. You do not know where you may be placed! 17

18 Q9.What happens if I am unable to attend my PLO because of sickness or other reason? If, for any reason you are unable to attend PLO you must notify the PLO, your Practice Teacher and Tutor of any absence. It is essential that you notify the PLO immediately as it may be necessary for the manager to cancel appointments or make alternative arrangements. You should adhere to the sickness and absenteeism policy of the organisation in which you are placed. You are required to make up any PLO days lost through sickness or absence. In the event that you are absent for 10 days or more the PLO will normally become unviable. It is important to remember that prospective employers ask about attendance when requesting a reference. The Regional Practice Learning Handbook provides further guidance. Q9. Is there a dress code for PLO? You should raise this matter during the pre-plo visit. Dress code will also be discussed at the initial practice learning planning meeting. 18

19 Notification of refusal of Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO) offer. (Please print clearly in black ink). I. University/College. UGR ( ) RGR ( ) Level:.. hereby formally advise the Degree in Social Work Partnership of my decision to refuse the following PLO offer: Organisation Address. Dates of PLO period. for the following reason (s) :... I have discussed this decision with my personal tutor and I have also notified the University/College Practice Learning Coordinator. I understand that in circumstances of a refusal an alternative PLO will not normally be offered for the designated period of Practice Learning and that this may result in a gap before studies can be resumed. Student Signature Tutor Signature Course Director Signature... Date.. Date... Date.. 19

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