Our national approach to the NQSW Supported Year

The national approach that we are developing in Scotland is a best practice model to support newly qualified social workers transition to the workforce and ensure an increasingly confident and competent workforce for people who use services and their families.

It provides NQSWs, their supervisors and employers with a consistent and robust framework for supporting the continuous professional learning and development of newly qualified social workers and builds on the existing responsibilities including supporting transition to employment, induction, professional supervision and appraisal. 

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Newly qualified social workers are entering an environment that can be complex, ambiguous, and unpredictable.  They require support and direction to successfully navigate the competing pressures, demands and expectations of their professional role. 

Employers and senior leaders will have a critical role in the successful implementation and delivery of the NQSW Supported Year to achieve the aim of a consistent and robust appropriate experience for NQSWs joining the social work profession.  Given the current context, it is more critical than ever to have a nationally agreed approach to supporting the professional identity of social workers and retaining them within the workforce. 

We are now in the final phase of the project with the learning from early implementation informing the final detail and recommendations to Scottish Government in April 2022.   

We will continue to engage with stakeholders and update you on the work on this website. Check back for more information and watch out for our news posts. You can find some of the information from the work so far below. 

Developing a national approach

The NQSW Supported Year sets out the approach NQSWs, supervisors and employers will be required to follow to meet their respective responsibilities in addressing the continuous professional learning (CPL) and development requirements of NQSWs at this stage of registration.      

It builds on the existing responsibilities of course providers, NQSWs, employers and the SSSC, including supporting the transition to employment, induction, supervision and professional development, and the management of registration requirements.     

The approach defines core elements  of support and learning opportunities that are required to be provided by employers and engaged with by NQSWs. The core elements are Induction, Professional supervision, Professional development, Continuous professional learning, Protected caseload, Protected learning time, Peer support and mentoring.

These elements ensure that NQSWs can evidence consolidation and development of their social work professional practice in line with their responsibilities as employees and registered social workers. 

The approach includes regular professional supervision and structured professional development discussions, using an agreed set of Standards for NQSWs to plan and review professional development. 

It is intended to align with existing employer appraisal systems or support the creation of one. The validation of the NQSWs progression against the Standards is determined by supervisors and employers.   

The approach recognises professional learning as lifelong.  The formative nature of the approach focuses on evidencing the incremental consolidation and advancement of an individual’s social work professional practice during and beyond the NQSW supported year.   

The tools and resources that we develop can be used to supplement existing arrangements in place which are aligned to the NQSW Supported Year or support the creation of one. 

National implementation group

We have a national implementation group which has key stakeholders working with us. We have several current work areas which we will keep providing updates about. We have included information here about our different areas of work.

NQSW online resources 

We will be developing this website throughout 2021 as the work areas develop. We will start to use the website to inform and involve stakeholders over this period. We will also provide information and links to learning resources that are available so that these can be used by NQSWs and their supervisors as soon as they want to.

Effective Transitions from university to employment as NQSW 

Both HEI’s and employers have a key role in supporting NQSWs to develop solid foundations at this formative stage in their career as a social worker. NQSWs learning and development needs to start with supporting effective transitions from qualifying training to employment.

Consistent use of individual learning plans is central to this and the HEI’s are working on embedding agreed transitions resources within their programmes.  A focus on the transferable skills, experiences and learning needs identified during the NQSW transition from qualifying training to employment will help shape the NQSW’s Supported Year.  This is critical given the disruptions to and variations in learning experiences due to COVID-19. 

You can find out more about the work we are developing on transitions to support NQSW and employers.

Supervision and professional development for NQSWs 

Regular professional supervision and structured professional development process are core elements of the model.  NQSWs and supervisors will use structured professional development discussions to plan and formally review the development of the NQSW against the agreed set of Standards

We have developed a suite of resources for supervisors and for NQSWs to support professional supervision. You can find these on the NQSW – the supported year in Scotland page and the Supervisors and managers page of this website. You will find a broad range of information along with tools and templates that you can download. There are also training materials that can be used within organisations.

Revision of NQSW Standards  

The NQSW Standards reflect the core characteristics of social work practice that are expected to develop within the NQSW Supported Year.  They relate to the consolidation and further development of the knowledge, skills, values and ethical practice accessed during formal social work education and outline the foundation of professional social work practice at this early career stage. 

The progress and professional development of NQSWs will be planned for and supported in relation to these Standards. We hope that the Standards will provide clarity on what an NQSW should be able to do, as a minimum, within their first year as a registered social worker, The standards are fundamental to the individual development planning process and a useful tool for framing development discussions. We will publish more information on the standards here soon.

We are also working with the Implementation Group to develop recommendations on an accountability framework for employers which will support them to implement an agreed NQSW Supported Year.  This will help address the variation in quality, quantity and nature of induction and support available at the NQSW stage. The national approach will promote confidence, competence and retention of NQSWs within the profession.   

Engagement activity 

We have been working with many stakeholders during the project so far and continue engagement work on all the work areas listed above.

Please let us know if you would like to be involved in developing and testing the information on this NQSW website or being involved in the national project.

Click here to let us know or email us

Next steps

We are now in phase three of the national project which is focused on embedding the transitions approach within course provider’s curriculum and on building capacity within the sector to implement the NQSW Supported Year. It is recognised by the Implementation Group that some elements of the NQSW Supported Year may prove challenging in operation and will require to be resourced.   

Funding has been allocated by the Scottish Government to support a small-scale early implementation of the NQSW Supported Year which will inform any further refinement of the approach and the final recommendations to be submitted to the Scottish Government in April 2022.   

The Scottish Government will determine if the NQSW Supported Year is to become a national approach.  The Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser has indicated support for this to be a mandatory to address the variance in opportunities provided for NQSWs. 

Our next steps include:

  • providing grant funding to support a small-scale early implementation of the NQSW Supported Year from July 2021 and work with employers to prepare and throughout delivery
  • supporting course providers to profile and embed an agreed transitions approach within their programmes. 
  • refining the approach and evolve the NQSW website as we learn from early implementation.
  • finalising the quality assurance recommendations
  • developing recommendations on a quality assurance framework for employers
  • developing resources to support NQSW in rural areas.
  • confirming the process for evidencing continuous professional learning (CPL) SSSC registration requirements for NQSWs. 
  • making recommendations to the Scottish Government on the NQSW Supported Year in March 2022 
  • keeping everyone up to date.

Learning from previous work across Scotland

In phase one, we supported three sites in Scotland to pilot different approaches with an independent evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the approaches. The evaluation findings along with additional data and feedback have informed the next phase of the project.

You can read the reports from phase one here.

You can find out about some of the Shared learning from the pilots that has informed the current work.

You can also learn about current activity in the early implementation sites.