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BA (Honours) Social Work (Wales)

Social workers support and protect some of society's most deprived and vulnerable people. It's immensely challenging and rewarding work, requiring a high level of motivation and commitment. You also need a qualifying degree.

The Open University in Wales offers a work-based distance learning route to the BA (Hons) Social Work (Wales) for students working in social care in Wales. The degree has been approved by Care Council for Wales (CCW) and once you've successfully completed your studies, you'll be entitled to register with the CCW as a social worker. This degree course is available to you if you're working in a social care agency in Wales, whether or not you're being funded by your employer.The Open University provides study materials and tutorial support, organises workshops and manages the assessment procedures. Practice learning opportunities are arranged between your employer and the OU in collaboration with a Local Authority.

Studying through work-based and distance learning, you'll develop the knowledge and practical skills that underpin effective practice, and the ability to deal with difficult and sensitive issues while working within a complex professional system. Towards the end of your studies, specialist options will enable you to focus on particular service user groups and practice areas.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q42 Made up of: 360 credits

This degree course is restricted to students working in social care in Wales.

For sponsored students entry has to be made through the employing agency.

Non-sponsored students must apply via The Open University in Wales on 029 2026 2728.

To study this degree you must:

  • have a qualification in Maths and Welsh or English (this must be equivalent to grade C at GCSE)
  • show that you can communicate clearly in spoken and written English or Welsh
  • demonstrate that you have the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities to be a social worker
  • take part in an interview
  • have an acceptable Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau and a medical check - this will be arranged by the University following a successful interview
  • (if you are a non-sponsored student) have successfully completed the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care (Wales) (T04). Following selection you then enter the degree at Level 2.
Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

An honours degree in social work is now the professional qualification required for all social workers in the UK. Once you've successfully completed the degree course, you'll be entitled to register with the Care Council for Wales as a social worker.

The degree will prepare you for practice as you begin your career as a qualified social worker. You'll have gained the skills needed to work with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals, and be able to demonstrate to employers your professional competence in social work practice. Employers sponsoring staff on this degree have commented that:

  • OU graduates are enthusiastic social workers who are well equipped to provide high quality interventions with clients
  • a very high percentage of their OU qualified staff remain within their organisation and progress to more senior roles.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

The programme aims to equip students as competent social workers by ensuring that they have the relevant knowledge, skills and values in accordance with the Qualification Framework for a Degree in Social Work in Wales, the QAA Benchmark Statement for degrees in Social Work, the National Occupational Standards for Social Work and the Care Council for Wales' (CCW) Code of Practice for Social Care Workers. The international definition of social work (2001), which has been adopted to underpin the key purpose and occupational standards for social work, describes it as:

a profession which promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.

From this key purpose the following six key roles are identified:

  • Key role 1: Prepare for, and work with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to assess their needs and circumstances.
  • Key role 2: Plan, carry out, review and evaluate social work practice, with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals.
  • Key role 3: Support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances.
  • Key role 4: Manage risk to individuals, families, carers, groups, communities, self and colleagues.
  • Key role 5: Manage and be accountable, with supervision and support, for your own social work practice within your organisation.
  • Key role 6: Demonstrate professional competence in social work practice.

The programme is designed to equip students to fulfil these key roles as competent beginner social workers in Wales. To achieve this, it is structured to promote the integration of theory and practice and to embed theory and practice within an explicit framework of values and ethics, with particular reference to working with Welsh language sensitivity.

The structure of the 360-credit honours degree is built on 120 credits at Levels 1, 2 and 3. At each level, students will engage with 60 credits of theoretical but occupationally relevant material and 60 credits of practice-focused learning. At Level 1, students will be supervised for 20 days in a practice setting to ensure that they are suitable and safe to work directly with service users and carers. They will undertake two extended periods of practice learning in KZW216 and KZW315. The practice learning includes the time spent in practice settings and the study time needed to explore and develop this experience, and to integrate it with the more theoretically based learning. The assessment strategies for these two aspects of learning are different, with the practice-learning requiring evidence of personal and professional skills through portfolio development and feedback from practice supervisors/assessors.

Progression through the degree will be paced. The programme will aim to move the students from a development of awareness and understanding at Level 1, through a process of application and engagement at Level 2 to a capacity for critical, reflective and evidence-based practice at Level 3.

The descriptions below account for learning outcomes under discrete headings. It should be borne in mind, however, that the integrative and holistic approach to teaching and learning social work competencies means that the boundaries between knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, key skills, and practical and professional skills are inevitably blurred.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding


  • issues and trends in modern public and social policy and their relationship to contemporary practice and service delivery
  • social processes such as racism, poverty, poor health and other sources of disadvantage, and how these are associated with processes of marginalisation, risks of crime and exclusion
  • competing explanations for the characteristics and circumstances of people who use services and for the range of perceived needs, including psychological and physiological, as well as social, theories of individual and social development, identity and functioning from infancy to old age and death
  • theoretical ideas and evidence from research on effective human services, including critical and competing explanations from social work theory and other relevant disciplines
  • the legal basis of human services in Wales and the role of professions, such as social work, in relation to such social processes
  • the roles and significant inter-relationships between a range of services, including social services, education, housing, health and criminal justice
  • the complex relationships and ethical and practical dilemmas surrounding justice, care and control in social welfare and community justice
  • the significance of inter-personal and socio-cultural factors in the delivery of effective human services in a diverse society with specific reference to working with Welsh language sensitivity and working within the Welsh culture
  • the nature of professional judgement and processes of risk assessment, including an understanding of the nature of risk and harm
  • approaches and methods of intervention in a range of family, community-based or group care settings
  • up-to-date legislation defining the rights of people, equal opportunities legislation, measures to tackle discrimination, and the roles of statutory agents, such as social workers, with a duty to uphold the law and protect the public
  • issues of Welsh language sensitivity and culture
  • codes of practice (including the CCW's Code of Practice for Social Care Workers), the regulation of professional conduct, practice guidelines and the values underpinning them.

Cognitive skills

Be able to:

  • gather information from a wide range of sources, taking account of different views and being able to analyse and evaluate critically
  • consider and evaluate specific factors relevant to practice, such as risk, rights, identity and vulnerability
  • synthesise knowledge from contributing disciplines in order to apply it to an understanding and analysis of the situation and circumstances
  • critically evaluate evidence from research and be able to apply it, and to think logically, even under pressure
  • review and evaluate policies, judgements, decisions and interventions designed to be effective in mitigating personal and social disadvantage and risk.

Practical and/or professional skills

Be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to fulfil the National Occupational Standards key roles for social work, at a qualifying level
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ethical basis of social work and the underpinning values of social work practice
    have knowledge of the theoretical basis of social work and apply this to practice
  • demonstrate an awareness of current research in both theory and practice. To have the ability to critically evaluate research evidence
  • work within the legal framework for practice
  • work in partnership with users and other professionals
  • work in ways that demonstrate understanding of Welsh language sensitivity and culture
  • practice critical self-reflection and engage in professional development.

Key skills

Be able to:

  • communicate effectively with individuals, groups and organisations, in a range of formal and informal situations, using an appropriate style and level, face to face, over the phone, in writing or by e-mail. Students will need to develop their Welsh language sensitivity skills and apply these in all levels of communication
  • use information and communication technology at a level that will enable them to get the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) or its equivalent
  • use information and communication technology methods and techniques for a variety of purposes, including professional communication, data storage and retrieval, information searching and resource management
  • gather, select and manage information from a wide range of sources and in a variety of ways, for a range of purposes. These methods should include electronic searches using the internet, use of electronic databases, reviews of written materials and face-to-face, written and telephone contact with individuals and groups
  • critically evaluate information, arguments and assumptions, being aware of different viewpoints, the authority of source, the limitations of techniques and the limit of their knowledge
  • calculate, analyse figures and interpret data in both statistical and financial contexts
  • present information and arguments verbally, in writing and using electronic communications, in a structured form that is logical, coherent and appropriate to the audience
  • manage own learning through the identification of learning needs, objective setting, monitoring progress by critical reflection, identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve, and responding to feedback.

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