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SYNEM Voluntary Consortium For Social Work Education by T22m5984


									                           Off-Site Practice Teaching in the Voluntary Sector

1. What is involved in working as an Off-Site Practice Assessor?

For Degree in Social Work student placements, where there is not a fully trained Practice
Assessor available on site, the Off-Site Practice Assessor (OSPA) takes on the formal
responsibility for practice teaching, assessment and report writing and carries overall
responsibility for the placement, under the PLC ‘umbrella’.

As an OSPA, you will work very closely with a designated work based assessor (WBA) who
will usually have undertaken our assessor training.

The different roles and responsibilities of the OSPA and the WBA are set out in detail in the
attached agreement which is always signed by all parties at the beginning of a placement.
Broadly speaking, the WBA takes responsibility for overseeing and managing the student’s
day-to-day work. The OSPA ensures that the student is meeting the requirements of the
Curriculum, is developing an ability to reflect on their work and is able to relate what they
are doing on placement to social work theory and a social work value base.

It is the OSPA’s responsibility to ensure that this form is completed, signed by all parties
and a copy returned to the PLC.

2. What kind of a time commitment is required of me as an OSPA?

OSPAs are required to offer a formal Practice Teaching Session for 1 .5 hours each week
for the duration of a placement.

You will also be required to attend:
 A placement agreement meeting at the start of a placement
 A midway review
 3 x 3-way meetings between yourself, the WBA and the student to discuss progress and
   obtain feedback from the WBA to help in your assessment and report writing
 Any other formal meetings required by a specific placement eg Concerns Meetings.

The other important thing you will have to do is undertake 2 direct observations of the
student in practice. The WBA undertakes a third and all are written up and submitted as
part of the Placement Report.

At the end of the Placement you submit a written report and formally state whether the
student has passed or failed the placement.

OSPA leaflet
3. What is the role of the Practice Learning Consortium?

We develop, co-ordinate, support and have overall responsibility for PLO’s delivered by
member agencies. Any agency with which you will be working as an OSPA will be a
member of the Consortium. This means that all placement agencies will be working to
agreed standards and within formal monitoring and evaluation procedures.

We will ensure that you have a full and up-to-date copy of the Placement Documentation for
the relevant university. This includes the Practice Curriculum, the format for the report and
all relevant procedures.

The Practice Learning Consortium run a training course for Practice Assessors twice a year
which is followed up with 2 half-day workshops once you are working with a student We
encourage prospective OSPAs to attend this course as a way of becoming familiar with the
PLC approach to practice learning.

We are here to offer support and advice should you encounter any difficulties with a
placement, or simply need to talk an issue through. We will offer you a one-to-one
support/supervision session during your first placement as an OSPA and are always happy
to talk through any issues or questions with you over the phone.

As we take overall responsibility for the setting up, administration, monitoring and
evaluation of placements within the voluntary sector it is important that you let us know of
any significant issues which arise during a placement. For example, if there are concerns
about a student being marginal, if a decision is taken to call a Concerns Meeting, or if there
are differences of opinion between yourself and the WBA about any aspects of the
student’s competence, we would need to be kept informed. This is so that we can support
and advise you effectively but also so that we are fully informed when we attend the
University’s exam boards at the end of each run of placements.

At the end of the Placement we will write to you inviting you to invoice us for your Off-site
Practice Assessor fee, which will be 50% of the overall Placement Fee.

Please note that this payment is made on completion of the placement and the submission
of the placement report. If a placement breaks down early for any reason, you will be paid
on the basis of 50% of the daily placement fee for the number of days completed. If a
placement breaks down, or is terminated, and you are involved in the work pertaining to
second opinion or termination procedures, this will be taken fully into account when any
reduced fee has to be calculated.

All of the above matters pertaining to the OSPA role are summarised in the Off-site Practice
Assessor Consultancy Agreement which all PLC OSPAs are required to sign.

OSPA leaflet
4. The Value of Voluntary Sector Placements

We feel that voluntary sector placements have an enormous amount to contribute to the
development of competent, well-rounded social workers. We list below what we consider to
be some of their key “added value” elements:

   The opportunity to work within the context of a different kind of relationship with service
    users - more often than not, service users in voluntary sector agencies are there out of
   The opportunity to work within an active commitment to empowerment/user
    involvement. Many voluntary sector agencies have grown up out of a recognition that
    the needs or perspectives of certain groups of people have been ignored by mainstream
    or statutory services and are working to redress this
   Specialist voluntary sector agencies can offer invaluable learning about what constitutes
    good practice in working with groups of service users whose specific issues may
    “disappear” in a busy statutory setting e.g. women experiencing domestic violence,
    young carers, Black people with mental health problems
   Placements in smaller agencies give students much more of a “whole agency”
    experience e.g. insights into funding issues, work with volunteers, the dynamics of a
    small team, management by management committee
   The different culture and structures of voluntary sector agencies do offer students an
    opportunity to stretch themselves. Students often have to learn whether they can both
    take and actively create opportunities to do meaningful work; whether they can maintain
    professional boundaries appropriately in less formal situations.

5. Specific Issues in Voluntary Sector Off-site Practice Assessment

Over many years of organising and supporting placements in voluntary sector agencies,
certain situations have arisen sufficiently often with students for us to regard them as part of
a pattern. One possible explanation is that some students are unprepared for how different
work in the voluntary sector is, from work in the statutory sector (if this is where they have
worked previously) or from their expectations of “social work” if they are relatively

Below, we set out some of the scenarios which have arisen in the past, along with some
strategies for addressing them, in order to help you “be prepared”.

Occasionally students will arrive at voluntary sector placements with something of a “social
work = statutory work” mentality. This can have an impact on their placement in a number
of ways:
 They may struggle, initially, to see the value of the work the agency does and which
    they are being asked to undertake
 They may panic, when comparing their workload with that of a fellow student in a
    statutory sector placement

OSPA leaflet
   They may feel that they are not doing anything which constitutes “assessment” because
    the agency does not have an assessment process which directly parallels that of a
    statutory agency.

Sometimes students find it difficult when work itself and/or relationships with service users
seem less formal; less externally structured or “mapped out” than within a statutory sector
agency. The need to be proactive in building relationships and in identifying the “social
work” in less formal situations can cause anxiety for some students. Some students are
able to confront this anxiety directly. On other occasions it can manifest itself by students
expressing a feeling that they are not “doing social work” or that there “isn’t enough work to
do here.”

Sometimes the extent to which their practice is visible to colleagues, volunteers and groups
of service users can be a challenge for students. The working atmosphere in some
voluntary sector agencies can be much more of a “goldfish bowl” than a social services
area office where a lot of work takes place one-to-one and in private. This too can create
anxiety or a tendency to “freeze”. Again, depending on their level of self-awareness and/or
confidence, the student may raise this with you directly or they may externalise their anxiety
by raising concerns about the amount/level of work they are being given.

None of the above is meant to indicate that problems never arise which are the
responsibility of the placement, and if you did have any concerns about the amount or level
of work, or about the value base of an agency we would expect you to discuss them with us

If any of the situations described do arise during a placement, it might be useful for you as
Practice Assessor to be aware of the following:

   Prior to being used, all placements have been visited and profiled by the Consortium to
    ensure that the range and depth of work available satisfies the learning requirements of
    the Practice Curriculum.
   All placements are evaluated by students and tutors as well as Practice Assessors each
    time they are used. Any issues or problems which arise are dealt with via the
    Consortium’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee which meets after each round of
   On Placement One the emphasis is very strongly on developing core social work skills
    regardless of setting.
   It is your role to help a student make links between what they are doing on placement
    and social work as a whole. It is therefore important that you can help them to see the
    value of/scope for positive intervention in less formal contact with service users. Also
    that you are able to support them in understanding that assessment is an ongoing
    process, rather than a particular set of forms.
   It will be important for you to have a clear understanding of the philosophy, aims and
    ways of working of any placement agencies you work with, in order to help students see
    the work they are doing within an agency context as well as a wider social work one.

OSPA leaflet
   It will be important for you to have, and be able to communicate to your student, a
    positive and informed view about the value of a voluntary sector placement in their
    development as a social worker.

6. Communication between Off-site Practice Assessor and Work Based Assessor

Although you will be the person with the formal responsibility for assessment and will make
the decision to pass or fail, it is the WBA who will have the most direct contact with the
student and will see them in practice more often than you do. It is therefore very important
to the success of an off-site arrangement that you and the WBA build an effective
partnership and ensure that there is clear communication and mutual respect between you
at all times.

The three 3-way meetings between you, the WBA and the student are one important
channel for this. Making sure that you find out as much as you can about the agency’s
work, and the philosophy that underpins it, is another.

It can also be very useful for you and the WBA to exchange practice teaching session/on-
site supervision session notes, making sure that your student is aware that this will happen.

If at any point you had concerns about the relationship between yourself and the WBA, or
about any matters pertaining to the placement, we would expect you to let us know so that
we could support you in working to resolve them.

April 2009

OSPA leaflet

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