GRADUATES in Cheshire West and Chester are being encouraged to apply to a fast-track programme to become the next generation of child and family social workers.

The council is opening the recruitment round for aspiring social workers to join the national 14-month Step Up to Social Work programme that combines real-world experience in a local authority social work team with high-quality university training.

The programme is backed by £25million from the government to fund 700 places across the country, with students receiving a bursary of £19,833 over the duration of the programme to support them while in training.

Helen Brackenbury, director of early intervention and commissioning at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "This is the sixth time we’ve run the Step Up to Social Work programme in Cheshire West, providing training for more children and family social workers to support our residents most in need. It’s a really rewarding career and makes a real difference to the families that we support.”

This intensive, 14-month, full-time programme is for those without a degree in social work and who want to become a social worker.

Students can expect to learn through a combination of academic study and real social work experience in a local authority.

On completion, the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work will enable graduates to register and practice as a social worker, making a difference by nurturing relationships with families during difficult times and by protecting children.

More than 1,600 students have qualified through the Step Up programme nationally since 2010, and over 600 are set to complete in the spring.

Natalie, who completed the Step Up to Social Work programme with Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “The programme is an amazing opportunity to train as a social worker in a fast track way. The course helps with every area of social work and is massively supportive of your development.”

The council is looking for strong graduates who have experience of working with vulnerable children, young people, families or adults and who can demonstrate their maturity and emotional resilience.

In particular, the programme this year continues to encourage more applications from male and BAME candidates, as we aspire to make the programme, and the profile of social work practitioners more diverse and representative of the families and communities being supported.

The Step Up programme runs every two years. Applications are now open until 7 April 2021, followed by regional assessment centres for candidates successful at the initial application stage. Students can expect to start the programme in January 2022, completing their training in March 2023.

* Candidates are eligible to apply if they hold a minimum 2:1 level 6 degree qualification i.e. a honours degree or a graduate certificate; or a minimum 2:2 honours degree plus a postgraduate qualification (level 7 or above) for example, a Master’s degree or a Postgraduate Certificate/ Postgraduate Diploma, in a discipline other than social work. They 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). Candidates should also be able to demonstrate significant experience of either working or substantial volunteering with vulnerable children, young people and/or families/ carers or adults.

Visit: Step up to social work website ( for more information and to apply by April 7, 2021.