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To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) if he will estimate the number of social work volunteer placements offered by local authorities in the latest period for which figures are available;
(2) what assessment he has made of the (a) length and (b) quality of social work volunteer placements with local authorities;
(3) what steps his Department is taking to encourage local authorities to offer volunteer placements for social work.
The Department recognises that by drawing on the expertise and skills of volunteers, the health and care sector has the potential to deliver responsive personalised services, particularly to some of the most vulnerable people and communities in our society. In October 2011 the Department published ‘Social action for health and well-being: building co-operative communities’, a strategic vision for volunteering, which aims to encourage leaders and decision-makers in the health and social care sector to work together, and to consider where and how volunteering can help to meet local priorities and improve the quality of services and support. A copy of the document has already been placed in the Library.
The use of trainee social workers on practice placements can also help local authorities to deliver more responsive services. However, the use of these trainees, like other volunteers, is a local decision to be based on local needs, priorities and circumstances. The Department has no role in assessing or monitoring the volume, length or quality of the placements, and does not hold this information centrally. To qualify as a social worker and register with the Health and Care Professions Council, trainees must undertake practice placement days; the College of Social Work has published guidance on the criteria to be used by higher education institutions in arranging practice placements for students.