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Placements during your social work degree

By Luke Aldred

Placements are a vital part of any social work degree. They allow you to gain real-life insight and experience. They also give you the opportunity to learn from more senior social workers.

At the start of the course, you will be given a local authority for the duration of your course. At your placement, you will gain the practical experience to complement your classroom based theoretical studies. Most degrees will expect you to complete around 200 days practice over three years. In your first year it’s usually around 20 days, 80 in the second and 100 in the third. This can vary though. 

During your placement, you’ll learn how to approach a broad range of issues faced by those you will end up supporting. You will also learn how to build peer networks and professional relationships. 

Where will my placements be? 

These can be in a statutory, voluntary or independent setting. Most often they are within local authorities. But they can also be in care homes, palliative care services, or voluntary organisations working with victims of abuse or substance misusers. 

Can I choose my placement?

The first placement is usually arranged by the local authority identified as your host. You do get to express an interest in where you wish to be placed and this is taken on board. Your next placements are made following discussions with you and what your learning requirements are. Your final placement is usually within a team where you hope to find employment upon graduating.

What support will I receive?

This will vary. But from the social workers we support, most felt supported during their placement. There’s always an induction process, where the student is introduced to the workings and structure of the team and what is expected of them. Group and one-to-one supervisions are also held during the placements to make sure you feel supported. As a student, you will also be provided with a primary point of contact – a person you can contact should you have any issues. 

How will I be assessed?

Students are usually allocated a Practice Assessor for each placement. You will have to complete a portfolio for each placement to evidence your learning. Students also have to meet the National Occupational Standards and adhere to the Codes of Professional Practice (CoPP) during each placement. 

How can I be prepared?

You’ll have a mixture of feelings about your first placement; excitement and nerves. But a little preparation can set your mind at rest. Once you know where your placement is, look at their policies and procedures. Usually these will be on their website, but you can request them too. You’ll also need to arrange a pre-placement visit before you start. 

As a quick checklist, remember:

  • There’s no such thing as a stupid question – ask away!

  • Get stuck in. Future employers will remember you for being involved

  • Don’t be afraid to share ideas. 

  • Take feedback as constructive – even negative feedback!

  • Remember you’re a student. You are not expected to know everything. 

  • Write down as and when you put theory into practice to help document your learning