Step Up to Social Work is an intensive full-time, fully funded, Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work training programme that allows you to become a qualified social worker in just 14 months.
We are looking for people who are committed to making a difference for disadvantaged children and families. You need to have a willingness to learn, be emotionally resilient and be able to undertake this challenging yet hugely rewarding academic degree programme.
This is a Department for Education nationally funded programme delivered by partnerships across the country. There are two partnerships within this region – Yorkshire and Humberside Partnership, and West and North Yorkshire Partnership.
Leeds Council is the lead partner for the West and North Yorkshire Partnership, which also includes Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, North Yorkshire, Calderdale and Kirklees local authorities.
Sheffield City Council is the lead partner for the Yorkshire and Humberside Partnership, which is one of the largest in the country and includes Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Barnsley, East Riding, Hull, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, and York.
Hundreds of trainees have qualified through Step Up to Social Work in this region and have gained employment as children and families social workers over the last 10 years. The employment rate for Step Up alumni in our region is extremely high – often, everyone who applies for a job after completing the course is successful!
This is a unique opportunity to earn while you learn, as the DfE provides funding via a tax free bursary payment of £19,833 and payment of University fees to successful applicants. Childcare costs are not funded by this programme. This will allow you to change or start a new career in social work and be able to continue to pay your bills and fund your living costs while you are studying. The programme only runs once every two years, dependent on government funding, so if you’re interested, make sure you don’t miss out on your chance to apply!
Cohort 8 is a new cohort, applications for which are now open.
The deadline for Step Up to Social Work applications has been extended - it will now close at 12 noon on 3rd April 2023. Interviews will take place in June/July 2023 and this cohort will start in January 2024 and finish March 2025.
Step Up to Social Work entry criteria
This is a Postgraduate Social work degree programme, so you will need either a BA or BSc Honours degree with a minimum 2:1 classification. Your degree doesn’t have to be in a related setting.
You will also have to have GCSE in Maths and English grade A-C (or equivalent) and you will need to have your qualification certificates to send us prior to any interview that is offered. If you cannot find these, you can order replacements online. It may take a month to get your replaced certificates so apply for them well in advance of any interviews as you will not be able to attend an interview without them.
You will also need to evidence significant experience of either working or substantial volunteering with vulnerable children and families, and/or vulnerable adults.
We are particularly interested in applications from men and people from ethnic minority communities, as these groups are under-represented in this area of social work.
The Step Up to Social Work programme is also a great way for people wanting to change their career to fast-track into social work. People with life and work experience often embrace life as a social worker very quickly.
Your 14-month programme will fly by very quickly, and if your local authority has vacancies, you will be guaranteed an interview for a social worker job in children and families statutory social work. The starting salary for a social worker in most authorities in this region is around £30k per year.
Check out our case studies to learn more about what our Children’s Social Workers have to say who have completed the training and watch our new videos of those who have completed the Step up to Social work programme.
Studying through Step Up to Social Work
We spoke to Lewis, who is now a Senior Fieldwork Manager, leading a team of 6 qualified social workers in Sheffield after completing the Step Up to Social Work course, to find out what attracted him to the programme and what the application process was like from a student’s perspective.
The bursary is one of the major benefits of this route into social work, but the placement opportunities were also a highlight of the course for Lewis.
With a guaranteed interview for any relevant vacancies in your authority, this course has a very high rate of employment, but getting the most out of the course also prepares you well for career progression in your new field.
Children’s social work can be challenging, but making a difference to children and young people’s lives also makes it hugely rewarding as a profession.
Applying to Step Up to Social Work
Applications for the next Step Up to Social Work cohort are now open. Those who are shortlisted for interview will be invited to an assessment centre which will be held in June/July and following success, applicants will be offered a trainee contract to start the degree programme in January 2024.
Frequently asked questions about Step up to social work
I am due to have a baby in January 2024, can I still apply?
You may apply and your host authority will make reasonable adjustments for you however you must recognise that this is a very intensive programme with approximately 30 days holiday (excluding bank holidays). The bursary payment is not extended beyond the 14 months and placements cannot be altered or extended. You will need plenty of family support and will have to travel and work in a frontline setting whilst on placement. Each placement day is at least 7 hours.
If you are resigning from employment then you must think very carefully before you agree to sign a contract for this programme as you will be giving up your maternity rights under your employer’s terms and conditions.
What are Step Up to Social Work applicants expected to know?
In addition to academic qualifications and experience, you should also make sure that you are able to demonstrate the following skills and knowledge:
Emotional resilience, the ability to cope with and adapt to the emotional impact of helping children and young people who are often in very stressful situations
A solid understanding of current social work theory and research
You should be aware of the risk indicators of different types of harm in children and young people
You need to show that you are able to think intuitively and logically to make decisions
Good, accurate report writing is a key skill for the job
Understand the Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) for child and family social workers. This is the standard of good practice used to assess applicants, so it’s important to familiarise yourself.
You should also show understanding of the entry-level Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) for social workers and be able to complete your application form with these in mind.
Have an awareness of the Social Work England Professional Standards.
You can find these statements and frameworks and more information on the British Association of Social Work site
I am getting married in the summer, can I still apply to do the degree programme?
What happens if I am successful but all the places in my preferred authority have been offered to others who have scored higher than me?
If you have met the required benchmark at the assessment centre tests, then your name will go on a waiting list and you may be offered a place in another authority or in another partnership which may be in another part of the country.
You should consider this offer very carefully as you may need to relocate and this will have an impact on your finances as there is no additional funding for relocation.
You are strongly advised to work out your finances carefully before accepting any place offered.
Do you have a suggested reading list?
When will I receive the trainee contract?
What is the assessment process? What does the assessment centre consist of?
Assessment centres will take place in June or July 2023 for the Cohort of students who will start their degree in January 2024. This may take place face-to-face however some local authorities may wish to interview virtually.
You should expect to attend an assessment centre for at least 4 hours.
The written exercise will be administrated by the DfE support contractor which is Capita. They will be in touch with you to complete your written exercise separately to the assessment centre.
There will be a formal panel interview with a manager from your preferred authority and a university representative and this will last 30 minutes.
There will be other assessment tasks including a group exercise with foster carers and young people and a practice scenario. Your answers will be assessed against the entry criteria of the PCF.
All exercises will be marked against the PCF so you need to be knowledgeable and evidence your current experience around these domains. The PCF can be viewed on the BASW site.
Can I be seconded to the Step Up to Social Work programme from the Local Authority I am currently employed by?
No, if you are offered a place on Step Up to Social Work following the Assessment Centre you will be required to resign from your current job by the time the programme starts in January 2024 as your status changes to being a student.
The ethos of the course is for people who wish to change their careers and become children and families social workers.
You must be sure that you are willing to do this, as you will lose your continuous service if you are employed by a public sector organisation (such as a local authority). This will mean that your service will start afresh should you join a local authority as a social worker.
Most local authorities now run social work apprenticeship 3-year BA in social work degree programmes for their existing staff, so if you are in doubt about your losing your employment rights then you should seek advice from your local authority about this route into social work.
Am I guaranteed a job at the end of the programme?
No, it is not possible to guarantee you a job but the Local Authorities within the Regional Partnerships will offer a guaranteed interview to Step Up to Social Work candidates and we will let you know when vacancies arise within the last 3 months of your course.
We will offer all students the opportunity to attend an employability workshop which will give you guidance on how to complete an application form and interview tips.
The employability rate for Step Up to Social Work students is currently 99% in this region.
If you are offered a job during the course, you won’t be able to start working until after the end of the course and the final bursary payment. As there will be a gap between you completing your degree and you gaining your SWE registration then the majority of local authorities will offer you an opportunity to work as a support worker pending you qualifying and gaining registration. This will support you financially and help you gain organisational knowledge.
We will arrange for those who have been offered a place to meet other students across the region in Autumn 2023 at our Keeping in Touch Day event. This day will give you the opportunity to find out more about the programme and meet practice educators to ask more about placements. It is your responsibility to find out about any loss of benefits whilst you are on the course. If you are in receipt of child credit/Universal credit/free childcare places you must find out how accepting this course will affect these by contacting your citizens advice bureau or benefits advice centre etc.
If you have any health-related questions or are worried about anything, there will be an opportunity to talk to the university lecturers or local authority reps about this.
We will also invite speakers and have fun activities for you to bond with each other. We will pay your travel expenses to attend the day; please keep any train tickets to make your claim.
As many people will still be in employment, they may not be able to attend this day. You may want to take annual leave as it is a very informative day.
We will also run remote drop-in sessions and provide a suggested reading list and information to keep you informed until you start your programme in January.
What funding is available?
There is a tax free bursary payment of £19,833 (£1,416 per month) in total for the 14 months. Your course will end mid-March 2025 so you will have to plan your finances carefully as your last bursary payment will be in February 2025.
Your tuition fees will be paid by the DfE if you live in England at the time of your studies. If you do not, then your fees will not be paid – you can still apply but would have to pay your own fees.
Payment will be made directly into your bank account and will be tax free.
Course fees will be paid directly to the University provider as the DfE are also funding your fees.
Depending on the Local Authority you train with, this payment will be made around the 30th or 16th of the month, so you might need to change any existing direct debits to plan around this.
Your first payment will be around 30th January and therefore you should ensure you have enough money to pay for your travel/expenses to University from early January.
Some students car share to save on travel expenses. You will receive a student card from the University which will allow you to apply for discounted train travel as well as many other student discounts and a reduction in council tax.
The Yorkshire and Humber regional partnership have contracted with a University who delivers the programme using a hybrid model of online and face to face teaching. There will be on 12 face to face teaching days throughout the programme. You will attend University one day a week whilst you are on placement to promote the application of theory into practice.
Each successful student will receive a laptop in order to be able to study remotely. The laptop will need to be returned to the University if you withdraw or fail the programme.
How do I apply for Step Up to Social Work?
Make an initial application online and ensure that you have completed all the sections on the application form especially providing information about having significant experience of working or volunteering with vulnerable children and families for a period of at least 6 months.
You will need to have a copy of your degree qualification certificate and your GCSE in Maths and English grades A-C or equivalent at the time of applying. These documents will be needed by the university provider should you be offered a place, and you will not be able to be interviewed without a copy. If you cannot find your Maths and English GCSE’s or equivalent (e.g. level 2 functional skills) then you should apply for copies now to ensure they arrive in good time.
Public transport is difficult in some regional areas and therefore you may need to provide us with your driving licence details.
If selected, you will be asked to attend an assessment centre. During the pandemic, the assessment centre may be virtual. We will let you know whether it will be virtual or face to face if you are shortlisted for interview.
The key assessment process components will involve:
A formal interview with a course academic member of staff and a social work manager
Role play or group exercise
A short interview with people with lived experience
A written exercise
Visit the Gov.uk site to start your application.
What does relocation mean and will I receive additional monies?
This means you would have to move home to be able to undertake the placements in the host authority. This can be expensive and you should work out your finances carefully before accepting an authority which means you have to temporarily relocate.
You will not be offered any additional monies to relocate or to travel further. These additional costs must all be calculated within your bursary payment.
How is Step Up to Social Work different from other social work programmes?
Step Up to Social Work is a pre-qualifying social work programme developed through a partnership between the local authorities (LA) within the Yorkshire and Humberside Region and the contracted University provider. It is an intensive 14-month programme that starts in January and leads to a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work and will enable you to apply to register with Social Work England. It covers the same curriculum as other pre-qualifying social work programmes but in a shorter timescale. Therefore, you can expect it to be a more intensive and emotionally demanding learning experience.
Students will have a trainee contract with a host Local Authority and two contrasting placements will be provided by the Local Authority with the final placement guaranteed in a statutory children and families setting.
I don’t have an Honours degree but I do have another type of qualification in Health and social care, can I apply?
In order to be eligible, you need:
You must also have a GCSE in Maths and English grade A-C or equivalent and be able to produce the certificates at the time of applying. Should the assessment centre take place on a face-to-face basis, you will be asked to bring the original certificates for these and your degree with you.
We won’t be able to interview you without these certificates so don’t be offended if we turn you away. You must also have at least 6 months experience of working with adults or vulnerable children and families either in a work capacity or substantial voluntary capacity.
I can’t find my English and Maths GCSE certificates, what should I do?
You must be able to upload your certificates with your application form and produce the originals on the assessment centre day, otherwise we will not be able to interview you.
If you cannot find your certificates, there are a number of internet sites to help you, but please bear in mind the time it takes to order new copies (4 weeks) as the closing date for applications is March 2023. Unfortunately, we are unable to process your application if you do not have these certificates.
I have a temporary student visa, can I still apply?
Who will tell me if I have been invited to the assessment centre?
The regional partnership administrator will send you a letter/email to notify you that you have been shortlisted to attend the assessment centre.
If you are unable to attend on the date allocated to you we may be able to offer an alternative date dependent on availability of interview panels.
If you change your mind and are unable to attend then we ask you to let us know at least 24 hours prior to the interview so that we can change our timetables.
What qualifications do I need for Step Up to Social Work?
As long as you have an Honours degree with either a 1st or 2:1 degree classification (level 6) or a 2:2 classification then you can apply.
You must have copies of your certificates to bring to the assessment centre or email directly otherwise we will not be able to interview you. You will be advised nearer the time of the assessment of whether to send these online or bring them in person.
In addition to higher education, applicants must also:
Have GCSEs in English Language and Maths (or equivalent) at a C grade or better
Have relevant experience (voluntary or paid) working with adults and/or vulnerable children, young people or families for at least 6 months
Live in England
Possess the right to work and study in the UK (including access to public funds) for the duration of the programme (until March 2025)
Not already have a social work qualification
If I am offered a place but can’t start in January, can I defer my place until the next cohort?
Unfortunately, because the DfE have agreed funding for this cohort of Step Up to Social Work, but not any future cohorts as yet, you cannot defer your place, as we have no guarantee that a further Step Up programme will be funded.
Can I have a placement in the same team as I was previously employed?
Will I be paid travel expenses when I am on placement?
Where and when is the Step Up to Social Work programme taught?
The Yorkshire and Humberside partnership university provider will teach remotely but with a base in Sheffield and the Humber region.
The programme starts at the beginning of January and the enrolment process will be completed online.
You can expect to receive face-to-face teaching for up to 12 days during the programme period. The teaching day is 10am to 4pm and takes place in Sheffield. The remainder of the course is taught virtually but placements are face to face on worksites in host authorities. Most local authorities are now back to working face-to-face with children and families.
A full programme and calendar of events will be given to you prior to the start of the course.
When will I be on placement?
There are two periods of assessed practice:
The first placement will be for 70 days and the university calendar will show when this starts.
The second and final placement will be for 100 days.
Manchester Metropolitan University are the provider for the Yorkshire and Humber region. During the placement period you will still be expected to attend university either virtually or in person one day a week.
Your host authority will arrange these placements, and they will be in contrasting settings to give you the broadest range of experience possible
Can I choose where I have my placement?
What are the hours when I am on placement?
A placement day is a minimum of 7 hours excluding breaks and you also need to account for any travelling time to get to your placement. You will be expected to be at your placement during the same ‘office hours’ as the team.
However, the needs of service users can mean that it is sometimes necessary for social workers and social work students to work extended hours, sometimes at short notice. When this happens, student social workers will be able to ‘take back’ this time in line with the host Local Authorities’ policies & practice.
What support is available to me whilst I am on placement?
What happens if I fail my placement?
You will be undertake a “Readiness to practice” assessment prior to going on your first placement. If you fail this assessment, discussions will take place between the University, the host Local Authority and the student as to whether a further assessment should take place.
The university has a robust concerns process that will be followed if any concerns are raised on placement. If a fail recommendation is made the university fitness to practice regulations will commence. The host Local Authority and University will discuss the options available to you at this point.
Do I need to have a driving licence?
You will not be required to drive if your host authority is a large city as you are able to use public transport. Some authorities don’t have good transport links and therefore you will need to have a driving licence and the use of a car.
You will need to provide your driving licence at the assessment centre if you are being interviewed for an urban and rural local authority (North East Lincs, North Lincs, East Riding).
I plan to take my driving test in Autumn 2024 – will you accept this?
Can I have a career break from my current employment?
If you are employed in any authority within the Yorkshire and Humberside region you will not be afforded a career break. Career breaks are generally for up to one year only and this programme is for 14-15 months. The ethos of the Step Up to Social Work programme is for the DfE to fund people who wish to change their career to become a children and families social worker. The bursary gives you the opportunity to step out of employment to train and continue to be able to pay your household bills, however this is dependent on the cost of your bills and outgoings, you must be sure to check your finances carefully as the cost of living has increased significantly and yet the Step up bursary payment remains the same.
As a Step Up to Social Work candidate, will I officially be a student?
Do I have to pay course fees?
No. The DfE are funding your course fees. You should read your trainee contract carefully as you may have to repay your bursary if you withdraw from the programme without good reason.
What happens if I am ill and need to take a break from the Step Up to Social Work programme?
The Local Authority, Regional Partnership and University will work together in an attempt to maintain a student on the programme. However, because the programme is externally funded there are external constraints on the availability of the funding and therefore funding will not be available or cannot be deferred after the end of the 14 month programme.
As all participants are registered University students, the University has an ongoing responsibility to support any student who is unable to complete the Step Up to Social Work programme due to ill health. This may include a transfer to one of its other qualifying social work programmes, support in transferring to a qualifying social work programme or a different programme at another University. You would have to pay course fees for transferring to another programme and would not receive the DfE bursary.
If days are lost on placement due to illness, then it may be possible to extend the placement to ensure that your placement days are completed. This may involve you finishing the programme later than other students. The bursary payment will not be extended beyond the final programme date so you must be aware of this.
Should you become pregnant during the programme then we will meet with you and discuss any reasonable adjustments that need to be made. We are only able to make a bursary payment to you if you attend the programme and complete all necessary work required. The programme will not be extended for any maternity leave due to restrictions of the DfE funding.
I have booked to go to a music festival in one of the placement periods, can I still go?
Which authorities in Yorkshire and Humber are offering places? What happens if some authorities are full?
The Regional Partnership in Yorkshire and Humber have secured a significant number of places on the next Step Up to Social Work programme.
Sheffield City Council is the lead authority for the Yorkshire and Humberside region and supports the following authorities: Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster Trust, East Riding, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, Rotherham, York and Hull.
Leeds City Council is the lead authority for the West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire regional partnership, supporting Leeds, Calderdale, Bradford, North Yorkshire, Wakefield and Kirklees.
If successful, you will be offered a place in your preferred authority however if there are no places left you will be asked if you would like to be referred to another authority within your region or one outside of your region which means you would have to be willing to relocate. Any costs associated with relocation will need to come out of your bursary. We will also hold a waiting list in case people change their minds about accepting the trainee contract.
How many days holiday will I have and can I take my holiday at any time?
We have agreed to include approximately 30 days of holiday excluding Bank Holidays – not all Partnerships give holidays but we want you to take care of your health and wellbeing.
Holidays will be planned out by the University and will usually take place around Christmas and the summer holidays. A calendar of holiday days will be provided well in advance of the start of the programme. No other holiday times can be taken.
Step Up to Social Work Induction Day
Your first day on the programme in January 2024 will take place face to face in Sheffield.
You will already have been contacted by the University to complete a registration form and to enrol on the programme.
You will be provided with a laptop prior to your first day of training.
Will I have an opportunity to ask further questions before starting on the course?
What will happen after I receive an offer?
All offers will be conditional subject to references, academic checks and DBS checks.
We will hold “Keeping in Touch” events so that you can meet other students who will be on the programme. This is an opportunity for you to ask any other questions prior to signing the trainee contract.
You are reminded that if you accept the offer of a place on this programme that you must resign from your current employment ready to start your programme in January 2024. You are advised to find out how much notice you need to give your employer.
Can I have a part time job whilst I am on the Step Up programme?
From our experience of previous cohorts, we would advise against taking a part time job, as the programme is so demanding. There can also be tax implications as the bursary is tax free as you are classed as a “student”. Being in employment will change your employment status and you are advised to contact HMRC to find out the tax implications. Should you wish to have a job at the weekends and this does not affect your studying then you are allowed to do this but you will have to inform HMRC as your tax code may change.
You will be required to study and complete assignments so you may not have any spare time for a part time job. The bursary awarded is much higher than a mainstream University to ensure that you are fully committed to this programme. Should you gain employment in the weeks leading up to the end of your programme and your contract then you must declare this to your host representative who will stop your bursary payment as we cannot pay your bursary and a salary at the same time.
I will need special equipment and/or reasonable adjustments to undertake my course – how will I get this?
Once you have been offered a place you will be asked to complete an Occupational Health form, where you can declare any requirements. If necessary, the University provider will discuss with you how best to support you on your programme. Should you require reasonable adjustments for the assessment centre and the written exercise then you must indicate this on your application form and also remind the administrator to give you an additional 25% time and provide written medical evidence that you need this adjustment.
When will I find out if I am successful and have been offered a place?
Assessment centres for Step Up to Social Work across the country will finish by the end of July 2023. The lead authority for the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Partnership will contact you at the beginning of August to inform you of the outcome of your assessment centre.
Due to the high numbers of applicants we won’t be able to give you feedback.
For more information on Step Up to Social Work, look at: