UCLan social work graduates are national firsts

14 December 2021

A group of new University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) graduates has become the first in the country to graduate with a social work degree apprenticeship.

UCLan was the first English university to offer the BA (Hons) Social Work (Degree Apprenticeship), meaning the six students, who completed the course while working full-time for Blackpool Council and Preston’s Foxton Centre, are the first graduates.

The three-year course, which saw the students released from work to study one-day a week, was designed in partnership with social work employers, service users and carers to upskill home grown talent.

The programme has seen staff from Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, Cumbria County Council, Blackpool Council, Warrington Council, Liverpool Metropolitan Council, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and several third sector organisations, including the Foxton Centre, sign up to develop their skills. The degree apprentices followed the same teaching programme as undergraduates on the traditional BA (Hons) Social Work programme.

Nick Henson, Head of Care and Support (Provider Services) Adult Social Care at Blackpool Council, was among the first graduating cohort and gained a First. The 49-year-old leads and manages a team of 400 staff who deliver social care to vulnerable adults and young people.

He said: “It’s great to be one of the first people in England to be graduating from this course. The teaching and learning opportunities have provided me with a solid foundation and I have a greater appreciation for social work practice now than I did before. Social work, when done well, can have a significant and positive impact on someone’s life experiences and life chances. I hope to be one of those practitioners where I can make a difference.”

Nick, who has secured a casual/bank social worker position with the emergency duty team alongside his management role, was among those whose studies were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: “It has been a long three years with a pandemic in the middle which disrupted my practice placements. There were times when I didn’t think I would graduate but I am so very proud that I will and I’m looking forward to joining the social work profession.”

The six graduates donned their academic caps and gowns and took to the stage of UCLan’s Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre today, 13 December.

Professor Joanne Westwood, Head of UCLan’s School of Social Work, Care and Community, said: “We’re absolutely delighted our first graduating cohort is the first in England to achieve this new qualification.

“It is testament to their determination to succeed that they’ve achieved great academic and practical success while working full-time and studying throughout a global pandemic. Our degree apprenticeship course is enabling people to develop the competency and capability to be additional vital resources on the frontline as social workers.”

A further cohort of learners from Blackburn with Darwen Council will complete the programme in the New Year, and 50 more will complete their programme by the summer of 2022.

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