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108 final year social work students from Ulster University have completed their degrees early to join the workforce and support the most vulnerable in society during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These students will now join colleagues across community and clinical settings to provide essential support to some of the most vulnerable and excluded in society. Working with a range of service users including families and children, older people, and those with disabilities to name a few, our students will collaborate with a wide range of professionals to ensure appropriate support is available.

The early qualification of final year social work students was made possible thanks to a collaboration between the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, the Department of Health and all agencies in the voluntary and statutory sector involved in the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership (NIDSWP).

The Social Work team at Ulster University has been working hard over the past few weeks to prepare their students for an early entry into the workforce.  Students have been given extra tutorial support via a variety of online platforms and existing virtual learning environments. Staff and students alike have been creative and responsive to the wider social need for social workers in the community at this time of crisis.

Sean Holland, Chief Social Work Officer for Northern Ireland commented:

“Coronavirus poses the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of our population any of us has ever experienced. It has truly been a time of global crisis which has required agile and imaginative thinking.

“Working in partnership with our colleagues in the Universities, the Social Care Council, and social work employers, students in the class of 2020 have been able to to complete their Degree in Social Work earlier than planned. This will allow newly qualified social workers to enter the workforce now, at a time when their skills and commitment to helping others is needed most.

“I am very grateful to all concerned for the effort this has taken, and I am especially proud of the students for their ability to respond quickly at a time of crisis.

“Becoming a qualified Social Worker can be daunting at the best of times. New social workers may feel apprehensive and fearful about entering the profession at this time. I am very confident that the foundation of knowledge, experience and support that students have gained while at Ulster University will prepare them very well for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Professor Kristian Lasslett, Head of the School of Applied Social and Policy Studies at Ulster University said:

We are immensely proud of our newly qualified Social Work students who have worked hard to finish their degrees early during this difficult time.

“It is a very special moment, colleagues and students have gone above and beyond in service of the community who depend on social workers. Those dependent on social workers are among the most vulnerable in our society and they have suffered dreadfully as a result of COVID-19.

“Our students will be using the skills and knowledge they have learned at Ulster to support those most in need during this global pandemic.”