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High standards lift centre to national award

BU's National Training Award winners

BU's Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work receives 2010 National Training Award following 'outstanding and exceptional' application.

Bournemouth University’s (BU’s) renowned Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work has won a prestigious 2010 National Training Award (NTA).

As both a National and South West Regional NTA Winner for Providing Education and Training, the Centre is one of a handful of applications this year distinguished as ‘truly outstanding and exceptional’. The award recognises the Centre’s excellent work in rapidly developing and delivering a new course for social workers which allowed their employers throughout the UK to meet a crucial deadline for new statutory requirements.

Accredited by the General Social Care Council, the Centre will now await the NTA’s 2010 UK ceremony in London on 1 December to find out whether it has won an overall ‘Winner of the Year’ award. The Centre previously won the national NTA in 2005 and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development Special prize for the best example of Continuous Professional Development Education in the UK. 

“This is a great honour for the Centre and for Bournemouth University,” said Professor Brown, Director of the Centre. “My colleagues thoroughly deserve this recognition for responding so quickly and professionally to the needs of our profession and setting such high standards in providing effective specialist training for social workers throughout the UK.”

Through training provided by the Centre, social workers are equipped to take on the role of Best Interest Assessor, a responsibility introduced in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Mental Health Act 2007 to provide legal safeguards for people who lack the capacity to make informed decisions or consent to treatment in hospitals or care homes. Those safeguards are known as Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. The Best Interest Assessors are responsible for deciding whether a person is being deprived of their liberty, whether that’s in their best interests, and how long a Deprivation of Liberty authorisation should last.

Because of ongoing consultation and legal processes, final training requirements were not issued by the Department of Health until November 2008. But the legislation set out that by April 2009 health and social care employers must have enough staff who had been trained and assessed in this area by a university. Employers were therefore under pressure to identify suitable staff and put them through an intensive course in less than six months.

Before the training there was no one in the UK who was qualified as a BIA or as a BIA trainer. Therefore the Centre at BU had to design and deliver a course for the local authorities and NHS Trusts, mainly in the South West, Thames Valley, and South London that use its other courses. The goal could not be missed since it involved a new statutory professional role and was a legal duty of these employers.

Professor Brown had advised the Department of Health during the specification of the professional requirements of the role. Thus it was able to work fast, starting in September 2008, to write and validate a new course, prepare teaching materials and train teaching staff ready to start work as soon as the draft guidance was published. The course content was completely new since it covered new legislation and a professional role that had not previously existed. The centre tapped into its networks of service users and carers to ensure that course content was relevant. It drew on its experience of using third party testimonies and case studies to ensure and verify safe and competent practice both for the employer and, ultimately, society. Trainees who pass the course have developed the skills and confidence to collect, evaluate and analyse complex evidence and differing views and weight them appropriately when deciding whether to deprive someone of their liberty.

The course lasted three days, supported by high quality learning materials and electronic support. At £545 per student, covering teaching, materials, tutorial support, assessment and administration, this was one of the most efficient courses in terms of cost and length due to the excellent support materials.  Candidates unsuccessful at their first assessment were given unlimited email and telephone tutorial support for a second attempt. Workshops were organised across the country so that students could attend a venue close to their workplace.

The centre had expected to train up to 100 students in the first year. Demand for training was so high, however, that by April 2009 it had trained 365 candidates from 45 local authorities, just over 30% of all candidates nationwide. Some 84% passed, 8% failed or withdrew, and 8% were still continuing their studies as of 31 March 2009.

They also wrote and published the key text books in this field which have been used extensively throughout the country as vital sources of information for professionals working in this area..

Piers Tetley, senior workforce development manager at Devon County Council and joint chair of the South West England Learn to Care Social Work Employers Forum, says the centre’s achievements cannot be underestimated. He says: “The director, Keith Brown, sits on the most influential government and non-government social work bodies and is simply outstanding at translating governmental policies and initiatives into knowledge exchange/transfer initiatives which employers need and value. In this ever increasingly complex business context Keith Brown and his team provide employers like mine with an absolutely invaluable service.

“It is not unreasonable to say that without the centre many employers would simply not know where to turn for advice and guidance. Their materials, partnership arrangements and flexible approaches to meeting employers workforce development needs are widely acknowledged as the best in the country and are driven by their desire to ensure the best possible social work practice is available to the most vulnerable in our society; more critical than ever at this time due to the recent high-profile cases and public scrutiny of social work practice. Their work with regard to Best Interest Assessors is a clear example of this.”

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