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26 Aug 2022

Your learning

Five-year study into newly qualified social workers report published

We’ve published a new five-year longitudinal research report which presents a national picture of how newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) experience organisational, practical and subjective dimensions of professional social work as they progress their early careers in Scotland.

The report, which we commissioned from the University of Dundee and Glasgow Caledonian University, gives an overview and key recommendations across six thematic areas:

  • education
  • employment
  • competence and confidence
  • learning and development
  • professional identity and leadership.

It also provides 10 key takeaways highlighting the important areas that stood out in the research.

Who is the report for?

Strategic managers with responsibility for the recruitment and retention of social workers and for others responsible for the design, development and oversight of pre and post qualification social work education will find this report vital reading.

The quality of the research data and the associated recommendations will enable managers and others to consider the impact of organisational and individual actions on the experience and development of social workers and how these in turn affect the lives of people receiving social work services.

How you can use the findings

This report is a practical document. It draws on core social work values and is a reminder of what is working extremely well in our profession, as well as identifying where improvements are needed.

The significant depth and breadth of each thematic area covered in the report’s findings adds to important conclusions drawn from five years’ data. The report outlines these conclusions in accessible, well-evidenced chapters which you can use together, or separately as resources related to the thematic areas, to explore aspects of strategic and operational benefit to the whole profession.

The specific findings relating to each of the six thematic areas should form a set of resources that can be built on within specific service and geographical areas. In each chapter, the overview and recommendations are supported by analysis of the extensive data.

The 10 key takeaways

  • The first two years of employment represent a crucial period of transition from the point of qualification.
  • Colleagues and the informal peer support, advice, guidance, learning and emotional space they offer cannot be underplayed.
  • Agile working reduces opportunities for informal and critical reflections and discussions which impact on sense and decision making in cases.
  • The impact and legacy of social work education is underplayed; the integrated model of learning we employ is absolutely critical to helping shape the trajectory of social workers as they develop in their careers.
  • Our approach to, and understanding of, what happens in supervision is under-developed.
  • Professional identity is felt (understood) most acutely when the value of what social workers do is recognised and when the role and contribution is clear.
  • Leadership is too often conflated with notions of management.
  • Social workers routinely work with and through complexity and conflict. They find fulfilment, value and confidence in this work and they experience it as struggle.
  • We need a better culture of learning and professional development in social work.
  • Social workers need their peers, managers and working environments to reflect and demonstrate support, compassion and encouragement. Employers need to spend less time on efficiency savings and more time on efficiency investment.

Read Newly qualified social workers in Scotland: a five-year longitudinal study here.

You can find reports on each year’s findings on the NQSW website.

Contact information

Sandra Wilson
Communications Officer
Scottish Social Services Council