Introducing Voices and Visions

Collaborating for improved third sector social work student placements

Along with our project partner, People Know How, we are beginning to look at social work student placements in the third sector; how they are now, and building a vision for the future. 

To kick us off, we are exploring what we know already about social work student placements in the third sector, complemented by what we know about the context of the social work sector more widely. Setting the Bar has highlighted the challenges presented by increasing workloads for social workers; the resulting stress and even moral injury this can cause practitioners. And, in our own work with Social Work Scotland, we also heard about the ways that leadership, and leadership development in social work, is impacted by squeezed time and a lack of resources. 

The 2024 findings from the Social Work Placement Experience Survey report showed that some students feel that third sector social work placements aren’t preparing them for the social work role, as not enough social work specific tasks are included; or because there were no other social workers employed by the organisation, for them to learn from. There is evidence in the report that some students were not able to pass their third sector placement, as they could not meet the required Standards in Social Work Education. This is at a time when there is increasing reliance on third sector organisations providing placements for social work students. 

People Know How are one such organisation, and they approached Iriss as they are interested in collaborative work on how the student placement experience could be improved. They want students that come to them - and any third sector organisation - to feel supported, and to get the experiences they need to prepare them to practice social work. From their experience, they can see that students are sometimes unprepared for their placement; but with a solution-focused approach, rooted in communication and partnership working; People Know How think things can improve. 

So, we can see there are different layers and perspectives to this topic area; different voices that each have valuable thoughts to share. We want to begin to bring in the voice of the third sector to this work, and then build from there, so we’re asking organisations to join us for a one hour, online session on Wednesday 26th June 2024 at 10am.

To receive the meeting link, you can sign up here:

If you support social work student placements, but you’re not a third sector organisation, we’re still interested in hearing from you! At this stage, get in touch with us directly at