Step Up to Social Work is an intensive full-time, fully funded, training programme that could see you kick-start your career as a social worker in just 14 months. Challenging, yet hugely rewarding, it’s your fast track to making a real difference in people’s lives.

The Yorkshire and Humberside regional Step Up partnership is the largest in the country (consisting of 10 local authorities), and due to its size and experience was recommended by the Department for Education to invite Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Children and Families to attend the launch of the new programme in January 2016.

So far, over the last 3 years, Step Up to Social Work has enabled 219 students in Yorkshire and Humber to become qualified social workers.  Most of the applicants had wanted to become social workers for years but couldn’t afford to step out of paid employment to train.  Step Up allowed them to do this by paying course fees and giving them a bursary that enabled them to continue to support their family and fund living costs.

New students in the Yorkshire and Humberside will register with Salford University on their first day, and will each receive an iPad to use for the duration of the course. Teaching will then be delivered by Salford lecturers in Leeds, as this is a central point for delivery in Yorkshire and Humber.

Step Up to Social Work case studies

Jo, Sheffield City Council
Jo, a theatre and performance graduate, was working in a temporary job as an adoption register administer when she decided she could make a difference by becoming a social worker.
Unable to give up work to afford another degree, Jo applied for the Step Up to Social Work programme as it gave her the opportunity change career in spite of her financial constraints. She was admitted to the February 2012 cohort and graduated in May 2013.
Looking back, she describes it as “the hardest 18 months of training she’s ever done” as students have to do everything – from placements to paperwork – very quickly. Jo says that she “felt lucky to be on it” and feels that Step Up produces capable social workers as it instills the attitude of being a practitioner as well as a student in you, embedding the ethos of continued learning.

Jo’s memorable success:
“I helped to find a permanent home for three siblings, aged 4, 2 and 1, together. The children were quite a handful and the oldest had delayed development as a result of severe neglect. The view was it would be difficult to keep them together, however I managed to find a promising adoptive family profile which was approved by the Adoption Panel and the children happily settled with them.
That was two years ago and I’ve since received a thank you letter, which is precious to me because it’s such a lovely success story.”

Sue, Leeds City Council
Sue, 51, got a BA degree in Early Childhood Studies and worked as a nursery nurse and later a family support worker before joining the 2014 Step Up programme. Sue wanted to get into social work 10 years before she managed to, and tried various routes, but struggled to find something that allowed her to continue supporting her family. “Then I heard about Step Up” she explained, “and it really fitted my needs.”
As well as attending lectures in Leeds, Sue was put on placement with an adult mental health crisis team, then spent six-months in children’s services where she is now on the front line as a qualified social worker.
Sue describes Step Up as a course that “fully equips you for what’s coming” – hard work, with high expectations, but “life-changing”. “We got exceptional support and are still getting it – it’s gotten me where I wanted and it does make you literally ‘step up’ and push harder.”

Sue’s memorable success:
“I had a mother suffering domestic violence who was resistant to help from social services. I did a fresh assessment, however, and began working directly with her. Using visual tools, I showed her the impact of domestic violence on her six-year-old son, who was underperforming at school. In time, the Mum began to work with me, realising that her son must come first. A Child Protection Plan was put in place and a court order made to prevent the violent partner from accessing their home.
Within six months, they were living safely in their home without the need for a Child Protection Plan. I’d say it was perseverance – from both myself and the mother – that got us to such a good place.”

Kate, Leeds City Council
Before joining the Step Up to Social Work programme in 2014, Kate had been a freelance photographer, a museum worker, a credit controller, a teaching assistant and the non-teaching head of year at a secondary school.
For such a variety of roles, there was one theme that ran throughout for Kate: her ability to help others. So when Kate, now aged 30, heard about the fast-track social worker programme, she jumped at the chance.
Her 15-month course included placements at an adult mental health centre and with Leeds City Council Child Protection team, where she is now a permanent member of the team. She says of her final placement and current work:
“It was fantastic. I feel lucky to be in Child Protection and to have been trained on the Step Up programme as nothing is guaranteed. At Leeds it’s fast-paced and varied because the team deals with a wide range of services – triage, duty assessment, looked-after-children, Child In Need and Child Protection plans.”

Kate’s memorable success:
“We worked with a couple in their twenties to help them keep their first child. Due to her traumatic childhood, Mum felt she couldn’t cope mentally with the role of being a parent. Dad, however, wanted to care for the baby.
We took the unusual step of placing the child under an interim care order and housing the whole family in a foster home, where intensive parenting support was given. They learned practical skills, like nappy changing and feeding, but also how to look after Mum’s mental health so she didn’t become overwhelmed.
Three months later the court decided they could return home with support from social and health services. I was proud that at Leeds City Council we were able to think differently to break the pattern. The foster carers were open to doing something unusual – in this case, working with Dad as the primary carer.”

Denise, North Yorkshire County Council
Denise was one of the students that attended the first Step Up to Social Work programme in 2010.
The course was tough but gave her the grounding needed to work in children’s services. She says: “It was really intense, you’d be on placement and doing assignments at the same time. The fast pace of the course does prepare you for what life is like in child protection. It’s a juggling act to achieve everything.”
Denise, who had previously worked in specialist needs schools in Scarborough, was sent on placements in adult services, a children’s home and in child protection, where she plans to stay.
“My final placement showed me which area I wanted to be in. From completing assessments to statutory visits and court work, I like the pace of the work we do. It’s difficult, and sometimes stressful, but that appeals to me.”

Denise’s memorable success:
“We had a mother and two children under 10 suffering domestic violence from an ex-partner. We worked with Mum – keeping in close contact and signposting her to appropriate help – to ensure the children were kept safe and that she did not return to the abusive relationship. It was wonderful to see the children responding positively to intensive play therapy and for the Mum to start working as a volunteer.
In the beginning, she had not wanted to know and thought social workers were awful. But she ended up sending a lovely card to me saying how grateful she was. These experiences make it worthwhile.”

Jayne, Leeds City Council team leader, talking about Step Up students:
“We’ve had two Step Up students on their final 100-day placement here and both of them got jobs with us afterwards.
One, in her twenties, came from a secondary school teaching assistant role. The other, in her forties, had a housing support and mental health background. Both have gone into child protection and one is on my team.
When they come to us they are really well prepared and ready to hit the ground running. They have an understanding of what they are coming into and what is expected of them.
It’s an excellent scheme and Leeds is keen to retain its Step Up students, so we benefit from our input and some well-rounded practitioners.”

Interested in joining Step Up to Social Work?

The application process for places on the next cohort of Step up to Social Work takes place in March 2017. This next cohort (cohort five) will offer up to 550 funded places. If you are interested in enrolling, you can register your interest here.  In the meantime, have a look at the FAQs below:


Key Step up to Social Work questions & answers

What is Step up to Social Work?

  • Step up to Social work is a Department for Education (DfE) initiative to encourage people to change their career/retrain or take up a career in social work, working with children and families.
  • It is a 14-month intensive study/placement postgraduate degree in social work programme which will enable you to apply for a job as a social worker.
  • The degree programme is delivered by Salford University however lectures are delivered in Leeds city centre.
  • Further information about Step Up in this region can be obtained via emailing

What funding is available?

  • There is a bursary payment of £19,833 (£1,416 per month) in total for the 14 months.
  • Payment will be made directly into your bank account and will be tax free.
  • 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.

What qualifications do I need?

  • As long as you have an honours degree with either a 1st or 2:1 degree classification (level 6) or a 2:2 classification plus a level 7 qualification then you can apply.

Which authorities in the Yorkshire and Humber are offering places?

  • For the last cohort the Yorkshire and Humber region provided 51 Step up to Social Work places across 10 local authorities.
  • The plan for the forthcoming cohort is for each of the 15 local authorities in Yorkshire and Humber to offer Step Up To Social Work places. 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. We will also hold a waiting list in case people change their minds about accepting the trainee contract.

What is the application process? How do I apply?

  • The process for cohort 5 will start in March 2015
  • To register your interest click here.
  • Provisional timings of the application process in Yorkshire and Humber thereafter (these are to be confirmed):
    • The deadline for applications is likely to be the end of May.
    • Shortlisting for interview/assessment early June.
    • Interview/attendance at an assessment centre early July.
  • Likely assessment process components will involve:
    • A formal interview with an course academic member of staff and a social work manager
    • Role play
    • An interview with a service user
    • A written exercise

Further information

For more information look at:

The Department for Education (DfE) guidance: Step Up to Social Work: Information for Applicants

DfE Research: The Views of Step Up to Social Work Trainees: Cohort 1 and Cohort 2

DfE Research: Speaking from Experience: Views of Trainees of Step Up to Social Work