Step Up to Social Work

Step Up is a fast-track social work training programme for high calibre graduates interested in career changes, nationally recognised and fully funded.

Been thinking about a career change? Ever considered becoming a social worker?

What is Step Up to Social Work?

Step Up is a fast-track social work training programme for high calibre graduates interested in career changes, nationally recognised, and fully funded. The programme was designed to support highly skilled graduates into children’s social care. We are particularly interested in applications from male and from BAME candidates, as these groups are under-represented in this area of social work.

The programme offers you a 14-month postgraduate diploma, enabling you to register as a qualified social worker, followed by a dissertation module to achieve a Master’s degree in social work.

Step Up is employer-led, delivered by the West London Social Work Partnership on behalf of the Department for Education together with the University of Hertfordshire.  

For more information see Step up to social work - GOV.UK  or join us for an information session and meet graduates, current students and teaching staff.

Applications are open for our next cohort. Applications close at midday on Monday 3 April 2023. Training will start in January 2024. 

Apply for Step Up to Social Work

  • Case study - Clifford Irving, Step Up cohort 6 graduate

    What were you dong before Step Up? Before step up I was a family support worker in Ealing. I was working witing a social care team and really enjoyed the social work element of my role and step up was a great opportunity for me to get qualified and become a social worker.

    What were your reasons for applying? I applied for step up for 2 reasons, firstly because I wanted to become a social worker and second, I had not followed a ‘traditional’ academic route into the field and this allowed me to become a social worker without any judgement about my academic history.  I still needed to have English and Math and had to go back and resit both! 

    What was it like being on Step Up? Being a student on the programme had its challenges, mostly due to being a student during covid, however all the uncertainty that came with that time helped us to become more rounded social workers and be able to work in difficult/strange circumstances. There was a lot of check-ins and as a student group we all came from different professional backgrounds so there was an abundance of experience to learn from. 

    For me, I had a lot of practical experience, and so wanted to focus on learning about legal frameworks/legislation etc.. and being in lockdown meant that the focus was centred mostly around the academic learning. We did have placements and these were also good but limited due to restrictions at the time (I stayed in the court team for my first year and it has been AMAZING!).

    What are some of the highlights? One of my highlights was being able to go on to do the MSc; I’ve always enjoyed learning and been passionate about it however have felt that it is inaccessible. Step up has really changed my view on that and I am now in a place where my dissertation is being published and I am looking into the next steps of my academic journey…

    Tips:  Be prepared to grow (professionally and personally), take in everything that is offered to you, be organised!!!

  • Case study - Anita, Step Up cohort 6 graduate

    What were you doing before Step Up? 

    Prior to Step Up, I was an Assistant Psychologist working within the NHS. Within this role, I have worked within forensic settings and personality disorder community services.   

    What are you reasons for applying? 

    Whilst I absolutely loved my former job, I have always been interested in explicitly working with children and families. Interestingly, I have always said to myself that if I did not work within psychological settings, I would be a social worker as I have been fascinated by systemic processes used to support to service users. I also had the opportunity to work alongside social workers and was intrigued by their knowledge and expertise. The description of Step Up caught my eye, and the fact that it was an accelerated course definitely helped! 

    How are you finding Step Up so far? 

    Interesting, challenging and stimulating! I am surprised at how much material we have covered over the last 12 months! Studying and doing a placement during a pandemic has allowed me to learn a completely different way of working, especially supporting vulnerable people virtually – something that I did not think was possible!

    What are some of the highlights for you?

    I have really enjoyed the workshops and guest speakers on the course. They brought to life the nature of social work and how it is always adapting as a discipline. I was also fortunate to have placements supporting various client groups that I have never worked with. 

    Any tips for future applicants?

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be kind to yourself as the course can get overwhelming too. And enjoy being a student!

  • Case study - Maisie, Step Up cohort 6 graduate

    Masie Pearce-Connor

    What were you dong before Step Up? I was teaching A-Level Sociology at a Sixth Form College. I am grateful that the job made me realise my passion for safeguarding and helping vulnerable families/ children.

    What were your reasons for applying? I wanted to have more of an impact when it came to family life and supporting those in need. I found I was interested in the processes of Social Care. I found it though google!

    What are some of the highlights? The highlights for me include the amount of independence we were given so early on which allowed me to grow in such a short space of time. I was constantly set tasks outside of my comfort zone which have helped me every day in my social work career.

    Top tip: Be honest about your strengths and your weaknesses. A huge part of the job is the ability to reflect.

What are the benefits of Step Up?

  • It’s funded: you’ll receive a bursary of approximately £19,000 to train, and there are no tuition fees to pay.
  • It’s fast-track: after 14 months you can qualify as a social worker and start employment; following this, you will be supported to complete a dissertation and gain a Master’s qualification over the course of your first year in practice now called ASYE.
  • It’s practice-led: you will be hosted by one of the 8 West London boroughs throughout your training, completing 170 days on placement and gaining the real-life knowledge, skills and experience to equip you for practice.
  • It’s a path to employment: upon successful completion, we aim for 100% employment rates of our graduates within West London.

And why train in West London?

We are one of the only Step Up to Social Work programmes in the country that funds its graduates to complete a research project and gain a Master’s degree, giving you the opportunity to develop your research skills, gain a higher qualification and contribute to best practice in social work.

There are eight boroughs in West London regional partnership. They are Brent, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Ealing, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. The West London boroughs offer great opportunities for training and development and networking post qualification. These boroughs are at the forefront of improving outcomes for children and families, with a number of innovative practice models embedded across the region including systemic practice approaches, strengths based models, and signs of safety.

Teaching sessions take place in central London, delivered by experienced academics in partnership with experts by experience and practitioners in the field. During the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, the teaching shifted online with live lectures, weekly journal clubs and pastoral groups. We are now delivering a hybrid mix of online and in person lectures and skills days.

The University of Hertfordshire has been awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, and has been ranked in the top 25 universities for social work education by the Complete University Guide.   

The West London Step Up to Social Work Programme offers excellence in both teaching and practice, laying firm foundations for an outstanding career in social work.

What do I need to apply?

We are looking for dedicated individuals who have experience of working with vulnerable children, young people, families or vulnerable adults and who can demonstrate their maturity and emotional resilience. We encourage applications from a diverse range of candidates and aim to have a workforce that represents the society that we serve. 

You will need to have a minimum 2:2 level 6 degree qualification, for example an honours degree or a graduate certificate (this can be in any subject) to apply to the programme. You should also have GCSEs in English or English Language and Mathematics at grade C or above, or the new grade 4 and above (or an approved equivalent). You will need to show all of your original certificates to us as part of the application and assessment process. If you cannot find these, you can order replacements online

The Department for Education hold central information on the next cohort and application openings. Check on the DfE website for current updates.

To apply for the Step Up to Social Work programme, you will need: 

  • a minimum 2.2 degree qualification (level 6) in any discipline except social work from a UK higher education institution or an approved overseas equivalent. Final year students are not eligible. You must have completed your degree programme to apply.
  • GCSEs in English or English Language and Mathematics at grade C or above, or the new grade 4 or above (or an approved equivalent).
  • a minimum of 6 months full-time (or equivalent) direct experience of working with vulnerable children, young people and/or families/carers or vulnerable adults, either in a paid or voluntary capacity.
  • to show evidence of your qualifications (such as certificates). Please ensure that you have the relevant electronic versions to upload these to the application portal.
  • to live in England and have the right to live and study in the UK (including access to public funds)
  • to complete an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check

You will need to show all your original certificates to us as part of the application and assessment process. If you cannot find these, you can order replacements online

We are particularly interested in applications from men and BAME candidates, as these groups are under-represented in this area of social work.

Skills and experience

You’ll need to demonstrate that you:

So, what else do I need to know?

  • The programme is full-time, the current cohort started in January 2022 and the next cohort starts in January 2024
  • Full-time means that you will be doing various activities throughout the day and will need to do self-directed study in the evenings and at weekends.
  • You should be interested in working with children, young people and families.
  • You’ll need to pass rigorous academic assignments and placements to progress through the four phases of the programme.
  • This a demanding course which requires resilience, commitment, and determination both personally and professionally.
  • Applicants should be able to demonstrate emotional resilience to become effective social workers.
  • 100% attendance at placements, teaching days, and skills sessions is required.
  • We aim to employ 100% successful graduates into a front-line team, working with children and families and offer a guarantee of interviews within the host borough.  

Step Up cohort 7 update

Step Up cohort 7 began in January 2022. Students on the programme are dedicated, committed and resilient. They have been reaching academic goals and in-person placements within front-line teams. They are getting ready for the end of their final placements and transitioning into employment in April. They are making a difference in the lives of children and families in the West London communities.

Staff working with the students say they are enthusiastic, have a positive attitude, are motivated, have a willingness to learn, are imaginative, work with complex issues very well and have advanced reflexion and reflection skills.

Cohort 7 students at lecture

What do our graduates and students say?

“I've enjoyed how organised tutors have been to allow students to seamlessly study from home […] I can work at my own pace and ensure I have grasped everything.”

“I feel like so far on the Step Up programme I have learnt so much and have felt so grateful to have the opportunity to learn about such interesting things. I can feel myself growing as a person as time goes by and, due to placements, my confidence has grown massively.”

“I have like it all, as an online course it has been easy to navigate online materials, plenty of chat rooms, discussion boards. Zoom/MS teams for lectures have been great with good balance of powerpoint, break out rooms, group discussion etc”

“I have really enjoyed the course and I have learnt a lot. Particularly, I have learnt a lot about social word practice and legislation. My knowledge around social justice and policy has also increased a lot and I have step up to thank for that. Covid-19 has changed society a lot but the step up team has really made learning very convenient and adaptable for this cohort.”

“For me, personally, Step Up has been transformational”

“I have found the peer support in the cohort to be invaluable”

“I had really varied exposure to practice in different areas”

“The course really prepares you for the workplace”

Step Up graduates talking about the programme (YouTube)

“This course has put such effort into creating a support and safety network of so many different committed people… I’m really grateful for this, thank you Step Up.”  Student

“I can honestly say that the Step Up to Social Work course has been one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken, and equally the most rewarding.”  Student

A social worker describes her time as a student on the programme (YouTube)

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Step Up to Social Work graduates from cohort 5

Cohort 8 Update

Applications will be open from the 17 February to the 24 March. Get in touch with us should you have any questions or need help with the application.

Candidates in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups have been underrepresented in this area the nationally, therefore applications from these backgrounds are particularly welcomed.

West London Step Up are hosting two information sessions via Eventbrite on the 16 February and 10 March. Please join us to ask any questions and meet graduates and current students.

Contact Fenix Cornejo to arrange a meeting to discuss your eligibility and application. This can be on MS Teams or by telephone.

Assessment Centres will take place online on the week commencing the last two weeks of June 2023 (save the week).

Teaching for Step Up cohort 8 begins in January 2024.

Further information

If you are interested in finding out more about Step Up or whether you are eligible, please contact the Step Up Practice Manager to discuss your eligibility and/or experience.

To find out more about the role of a children’s social worker, have a look at the Knowledge and Skills Statement and the Professional Capabilities Framework.

Visit Home | Step Up to Social Work ( for more information

Fenix Cornejo
Step Up Practice Manager
West London Step Up to Social Work
Children’s Services
Hammersmith & Fulham Council

020 8753 5988
07825 420 416

Want to really make a difference to the lives of children and families?

#StepUpToSocialWork is a hugely rewarding degree programme and could be your next career

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