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Newly qualified social workers

A study of newly qualified social workers has found that most wanted to quit after a year because of a combination of work pressures and lack of support.

Researchers Gordon Jack and Helen Donnellan followed the progress of NQSWs based in children’s services through their first year of employment and found by the end the majority did not envisage a future in local authority child care social work

Their study showed that while most began work with “optimism and confidence” they soon became unhappy and frustrated.

Jack and Donnellan, who examined the experiences of NQSWs through questionnaires and in-depth interviews, said it was “alarming” how quickly positive feelings “drained away”.

All of the NQSWs said they had high caseloads almost from the first day they started and reported frustrations with bureaucracy and lack of formal supervision.

Among the comments made by NQSWs were: “I was carrying 22 [cases] when I was newly qualified, with eight child protection and not a lot of regular supervision, not a lot of anything.. Since qualifying, I haven’t looked at a single paper, a single piece of research.”

“When I had a bit of time at Christmas, I just shut down completely … I didn’t do anything. There’s plenty of nights when I’m lying in bed and I’m worrying and I’ve got that knot in my stomach.”

Jack and Donnellan warn that employers are failing to recognise that NQSWs are “first and foremost” human beings.

“In order to function well within their roles as professional social workers, they needed to feel that their employers appreciated the difficult job that they were doing, and were committed to providing the resources and support necessary to enable them to do it well,” they say.