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COVID-19 social work study and ASWEAS FAQs

COVID-19 pandemic response to the Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS)

AASW approved flexibilities and modifications to the ASWEAS (1 January to 31 December 2022).

In recognition of the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 for students and Higher Education Providers (HEPs), the AASW has approved some ongoing flexibilities for AASW Accredited Social Work programs for the 2022 academic year.

The AASW has approved flexibilities concerning Field Education (ASWEAS Section 4) and face-to-face classroom-based learning (ASWEAS 6.3.2). These flexibilities should be used where it is not otherwise possible to meet the standards due to Covid-19 and not as a blanket rule. Normally these variations would be non-compliant with the ASWEAS. However, given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-ranging impacts, the AASW is supportive of the following flexibilities:

  1. Students may be supervised by an external supervisor for more than one placement where this is deemed necessary by the HEP.
  2. Indirect placements in which students are working in small groups on a shared project. That is 1.5 hours of formal group supervision per 35 hours of placement will be considered adequate, provided the HEP can demonstrate that all the objectives of supervision (including those that are normally achieved through supervision provided on a one-to-one basis), have been met.
  3. Students can complete two placements in one year, where this is deemed necessary by the HEP. However, the students will need to have completed prescribed academic prerequisites before and between each placement.
  4. HEPs may choose to deliver up to 35 hours per placement via supervised simulations, where this is needed to meet identified gaps in student placement learning outcomes.
  5. Continued flexibility around on-campus attendance requirements, with both staff and students affected by public health directives including lockdowns, border closures, and quarantining of specified individuals.

Please note:

The previous AASW approved COVID-19 ASWEAS exemptions for reduced placement hours, and the capacity to complete two non-practice-based placements expired on 31 December 2021. Students are thus required to complete 1,000 hours of placement, and a minimum of one field education placement in a direct field education setting, as per the ASWEAS requirements.

The AASW has applied a range of flexibilities and exemptions concerning the ASWEAS since 2020 in consultation with HEPs. Effective 01 January 2023, the AASW will revert to the ASWEAS, unless restrictions across State/Territory governments continue to impact Field Education and on-site learning beyond this time.

It is important to emphasise that it remains the continued responsibility of HEPs to ensure that upon qualification, students have met all required learning outcomes. As such, these flexibilities should only be utilised only when required.

The AASW is also informed by the advice of TEQSA and is committed to working collaboratively with HEPs to reach pragmatic, reasonable, and compassionate accommodations given the multi-faceted challenges faced by providers and students alike. The AASW, like TEQSA, acknowledges that due to COVID-19, providers may not be able to comply with the ASWEAS requirements but will strive to do so via a range of student-focussed and often highly innovative methods, for which the AASW commends them.

Our priority is that students access a wide range of learning opportunities and experiences to:

  • Enable them to graduate with the required social work skills and attributes
  • Ensure that new graduates are confident, ethically competent, and skilled social workers equipped for practice.

This is essential to uphold the integrity of the social work profession and the safety and wellbeing of the people and communities who utilise social work services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. The ASWEAS states that regardless of the mode of delivery, all programs must provide a minimum of 20 days of face-to-face teaching and learning. All students must participate irrespective of the mode of program delivery. With social distancing now in force, how are we supposed to comply?

The AASW envisages that modified programs and variations will be utilised by HEPs, tha might include a reduction of face-to-face and attendance requirements. For distance education providers, the AASW understands that some residential schools may be delivered online or in a hybrid form in 2022. However, this will not be the case for all programs. We also expect on-campus programs to continue to deliver some of their programs online. HEPs will be required to report any modifications and variations in the 2022 AASW Annual Report as relevant.

  1. I am currently doing my placement, and my agency has asked staff to work from home. What impact does this have on my placement?

ASWEAS: "Students will complete 1,000 hours of professional practice learning involving no more than three placements".

If students cannot attend their placement due to office/service closure, it is envisaged that they will be supported to continue their placement from home. It is expected that students will make these arrangements in consultation with the HEP field education department, including the field educator (agency or external), task supervisor, and field education liaison staff. Supplementary projects relating to the placement, simulation, or other pedagogies might be used to complement the placement. This may require some adjustment to student learning goals. The AASW understands that in these circumstances, direct practice (where the student engages directly with individuals, groups, families, and/or communities) is not possible. In consultation with the Field Educator (agency or external based) and the HEP Field Education Liaison Officer, the student might continue the placement working remotely and focus on achieving new/additional learning outcomes.

Alternatively, the HEP, student, and placement provider may decide to postpone the placement until the COVID-19 has passed if all parties are willing to accommodate this and if this fits around coursework. For students who have not commenced their placement or are due to commence their placements in the next few weeks, placements might also be postponed/cancelled by the HEP.

  1. At least one placement has to be in direct practice - what if I haven't done that yet, and now I can't due to social distancing?

If the above situation arises in the student's final/last placement, and the student has already conducted an indirect placement, the student must consult with the HEP to discuss options.

  1. Social work field educators must be able to provide a minimum of 1.5 hours of formal supervision per student for each 35 hours of placement. At a minimum, half of this supervision must be provided on a one-to-one basis.

During the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible supervision arrangements can be negotiated. The use of technology (zoom/skype) can replace face-to-face supervision arrangements.

Field Education Liaison Officer (FELO) Visits:

The ASWEAS states that the FELO will meet with the student and Field Educator at least twice during the placement on-site or online face-to-face meeting. This is to clarify education issues, monitor the progress of the placement, mediate any difficulties, and assess student progress.

  1. My placement will be cancelled. What will happen to the hours I have already completed?

All completed field work hours can be calculated towards a student's achievement of the 1,000-hour field education requirement. This includes hours accrued should a placement be prematurely cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These hours will not be lost despite the placement not being completed.

  1. I have a query about my AASW Accredited Social Work program?

We expect that the first port of call for students is to contact their Higher Education Provider or University. The AASW can only provide general information about the ASWEAS, and or any approved COVID flexibilities. The AASW does not have a designated role in making decisions at an individual student level regarding a student's placement planning or circumstances.

If a HEP would like to discuss their accreditation or application of the ASWEA Standards, they can contact the AASW HEP Team via education@aasw.asn.au or on 03 9320 1000 (ext. 4).

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers