Researchers to analyse real-world experiences of new social workers

17 October 2016

Social work researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have secured a major commission from the Scottish Social Services Council to conduct a national study of the experiences of newly qualified social workers in Scotland.

The project will explore how new social workers develop in their early careers and will be led by researcher Scott Grant, Lecturer in Social Work within the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Allied Health Sciences at GCU.

The five-year research project will include a national online survey, focus groups and in-depth interviews.

The Scottish Government, social service employers and higher education institutions are key stakeholders in the development of a social services workforce which is capable of dealing with the demands of increasingly complex working arrangements.

The research will investigate how newly qualified social workers are supported, trained and developed in diverse practice settings to cope with these challenges while remaining empathetic, reflexive and resilient. The research will explore professional development and work-based experiences, analysing the key themes of developing resilience and value commitment; retention and recruitment; navigating dynamic practice roles and contexts; and professional development, identity and learning.

By looking at the ongoing development needs of social workers as they progress through their careers, this study will help to establish some key performance benchmarks for the social services profession as a whole. A national understanding will provide crucial insights into workforce change during significant transition periods relating to wider structural agendas, such as integration and the implementation of self-directed support.

Mr Grant said: “Newly qualified social workers from across Scotland will be the first group of people that we look into in this study. We will be looking for first-hand experience of employment, how professional skills and practice are developed, how new practitioners are supported in practice and how new staff develop a professional identity.”

The project builds on a previous study of newly qualified social workers, conducted by GCU, which informed a major national review of social work education in Scotland (published in the British Journal of Social Work).

Mr Grant added: “This new study will provide much deeper and richer analysis of the lived experience of young professionals as they enter the field for the first time.”