Practice Learning for Social Work

Work based practice learning is an integral part of the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work. The practice learning experience aims to provide students with the opportunities to develop understanding, knowledge, skills, values and ethics in social work practice.

Throughout their time on the Degree in Social Work Programme, students will be required to undertake a total of 225 days of practice learning, of which:

  • 25 days must be spent in preparation for direct work with service users
  • 185 days must be in direct supervised practice; 85 days at level 2 and 100 days at level 3; and
  • 15 days to be used for individual practice development.

In each Practice Learning Opportunity, students are required to demonstrate progress commensurate with the level of the programme. These learning opportunities support students to gain experience of:

  • Carrying out statutory social work tasks;
  • Working in at least two different settings;
  • Providing services to at least two service user groups;
  • Group care;
  • Working with at least two other professions;
  • The contested nature, scope and purpose of social work in a diverse society;
  • Participating in formal decision – making forums;
  • Participating in and presenting evidence in courts or tribunals or other formal hearings; and
  • Applying community development approaches in social work.

Allocation of Practice Learning Opportunities (PLOs)

Practice Learning Opportunities (PLOs) for social work students across Northern Ireland are coordinated by the NI Social Work Degree Partnership (Practice Learning and Degree Delivery Committee (PLADD).

PLOs are offered across all settings and programmes of care. They include: the five Health and Social Care Trusts, Voluntary Agencies, Department of Justice, (including Probation Board NI and Youth Justice) and the Education Authority. Students are allocated to suitable PLOs throughout the course of the Degree in Social work and will be notified of these at the relevant time.

PLOs are allocated according to availability and with due regard to each student's learning needs. They cover a wide geographical area and students will need to be prepared to travel to their PLO destination.

  • Full time Students are required to work 37.5 hours weekly,
  • Part-time students are required to work 37.5 hours per fortnight.
  • Some agencies may require work outside 9 - 5 office hours e.g. Young Persons Project may require evening work or Education Welfare settings may require home visits after school hours.
  • Students located in residential and supported living settings will normally be required to work shifts which may include evenings, overnights and weekends.
  • Students commencing PLO in August will normally be notified by the college in early June.
  • Students commencing PLO in January will normally be notified by the college in early December.

Guidance on the allocation of Practice Learning and the standards student must meet during placements is available in the Degree Partnership section.

NISCC Designated Practice Learning Providers

Any social work service/organisation, large or small, can apply to become a Social Care Council Designated Practice Learning Provider. Providers must meet the NISCC Practice Learning Standards and complete regular reviews as part of the Social Care Council quality assurance process. Information about becoming a Practice Learning Provider is available in our Designated Practice Learning Scheme guidance and the Council's Standards for Practice Learning for the Degree in Social Work.

Associated Resources