This guidance has been developed by the Degree in Social Work Partnership in response to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 which was amended by the Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
This guidance is particularly concerned with action to be taken to ensure that disabled students have equality of opportunity to maximise learning from work based practice opportunities.
‘Disability discrimination legislation is based on the principle that physical and mental impairments are not disabling in themselves ,but become so in the context of practices or environments that make it hard for that person to participate fully and /or restricts his/her opportunities.’ (QAA, 2007: 8)
The legislation requires all organisations involved in the delivery of practice learning to promote an inclusive environment and to strive to ensure all students have a quality practice learning experience.
Definition of disability used in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995:
A person has a disability for the purposes of this Act if he has a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long –term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal-day –to day activities.
DDA Part1 (1)
The definition covers a wide range of impairments including:
Physical and mobility difficulties
Specific learning difficulties e.g. dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders
Medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, cancer
Mental ill health e.g. depression, schizophrenia
Supporting students The Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order (DDO) 2006 amends the definition of disability so that people with progressive conditions such as cancer, HIV infection or multiple sclerosis (MS) will be deemed to be disabled from the point of diagnosis rather than from the point when the condition has some adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day - to -day activities. The DDO also removes the requirement in the DDA that a mental illness must be ‘clinically well recognized ‘before it can count as impairment for the purposes of the DDA. People with a mental illness will still need to show that their impairment has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The removal of the ‘clinically well recognised’ requirement brings DDA coverage for people with mental illnesses into line with coverage for other physical impairments.
(Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
The primary aim of legislation is to promote equality of opportunity and to prevent discrimination. In order for students to be supported appropriately and for reasonable adjustments to be effectively implemented both within the academic institution and the work based practice learning setting it is important that providers are aware of the implications of the legislation.
Students may be reluctant to disclose medical conditions, mental health difficulties or specific learning difficulties to tutors or Designated Practice Learning Providers (DPLPs) because of fear of possible discrimination. If a disability is recently acquired or diagnosed a student may find it particularly difficult to disclose therefore understanding of these issues is essential.
Some students may have a disability at point of entry to the programme; others may become disabled after the programme has started. Other students may have variable conditions and require supports at particular times during the degree course including periods of work based practice learning (PLO).
The process of identifying appropriate supports relies on disclosure by students. In order to encourage students to disclose information an atmosphere of safety, trust and openness is necessary.
Disclosure may occur at any point during PLO but this may influence the level and/or quality of support that can be provided.
A student has the right not to disclose their disability however in such circumstances he/she must understand that it is probable that support/ reasonable adjustments will not be set up. Neither the academic institution nor DPLP can be accused of disability related discrimination if they do not know and could not be reasonably expected to know that an individual is disabled.
Students need to be encouraged to disclose information within the academic setting and be prepared to share information with the practice learning provider. Information about Disability Support Services and the process for allocating practice learning opportunities (PLO) should be provided to students:
at the application stage
upon commencement of the course
during preparation for PLO
at each level of the programme
Doing so can improve lines of communication and indicate to students that tutors and practice teachers are aware of disability/health issues and are open to exploring how best to provide the support required. This will hopefully encourage students to feel confident enough to share information.
This document provides:
Specific guidance for supporting students who may require reasonable adjustments to enable them to fully maximise learning while undertaking PLO.
A brief overview of legislation and policy
The guidance is not absolute and it is not possible in such a document to cover every situation. Rather it aims to enable those involved in the provision of PLOs to consider issues clearly and in sufficient depth. It also aims to clarify responsibilities including that of the student to actively engage in agreeing specific supports and reasonable adjustments.
The terminology and language used within is intended to reflect the social model of disability and uses the terms used within the disability legislation.
It should be noted that this is guidance has no contractual or legal status.
1.0 Introduction Work based practice learning is an integral part of the Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work accounting for fifty per cent of the programme. Students are required to undertake a total of 185 days of direct supervised practice learning:
85 days at level 2
100 days at level 3
(NISCC: Revised 2010) These designated periods of practice learning provide the student with opportunities:
to gain experience of the complex nature of social work practice
to develop understanding of the professional role of social work
to transfer academic knowledge into practice.
to develop skills, knowledge, values and ethics
to become a competent practitioner
1.1 Purpose of document. Given that practice learning is a significant component of qualifying education and training it is essential that disabled students have equality of opportunity to PLOs.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 (SENDO) introduced changes to the Disability Act. Providers of work based learning opportunities have duties not to discriminate against disabled people and are required to make reasonable adjustments. Practice teachers and others involved in a student’s learning must ensure that appropriate learning opportunities and activities exist to enable the student to demonstrate his/her competency, value base and ability to be reflective.
Students undertaking social work education and training are generally well supported on campus by tutors, academic staff and university services. When commencing the course and where appropriate a student may be assessed by university disability services, which allows for identification and delivery of appropriate supports on campus.
Designated Practice Learning Providers (DPLPs) also provide on-going support to students throughout periods of practice learning. Students, practice teachers and others engaged in the provision of practice learning report however that support requirements in relation to work based practice learning can be very different to those in the educational setting.
This guidance aims to ensure that where appropriate a student’s requirements are assessed in the context of work based leaning and that he/she is provided with appropriate guidance and supports prior to and during work based practice learning.
Staff involved in the provision of practice learning supervision, assessment and support need to be clear about their role and responsibility in ensuring effective and safe practice.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 there is a responsibility to be proactive and this guidance aims to promote a consistent and effective approach to planning and providing support for disabled social work students undertaking practice learning.
The guidance is informed by the legal definition provided in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and amended by the Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.
1.2 Inclusive Practice Learning Opportunities Discussions involving the student, the practice teacher, tutor and appropriate others at an early stage can avoid misunderstandings and issues arising during the PLO.
Such discussions can also reduce anxiety and prevent impromptu, last minute actions.
Adequate forward planning and in depth discussion are necessary to ensure that there is clear understanding of the work activity of the PLO and that a student’s specific support requirements are met.
This is the shared responsibility of the training team i.e. student, tutor, and practice teacher.
Discussion of the student’s Individual Learning Plan can provide an opportunity for him/her to discuss any particular requirements.
A further opportunity for disclosure is when the student is completing his/her profile for the practice learning allocations process. Completing the profile gives students the opportunity to discuss any concerns in relation to disclosure and to explore with their personal tutor the implications if any of going on work based practice learning.
Student may however disclose at any time during the PLO.
As already stated a student has the right to not disclose. PLO providers however have ‘a duty of care’ to ensure the safety and wellbeing of service users, carers and colleagues including students. It is therefore essential that all students are fully aware of their responsibilities in terms of professional practice. The NISCC Code of Practice for Social Care Workers (2001; 6) states that as a social care worker you must be accountable for the quality of your work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving your knowledge and skills. This includes:
‘informing youremployer or the appropriate authority about any personal difficulties that might affect your ability to do your job competently and safely.’ (6.3)
Registration with NISCC also requires individuals to make a declaration about their health. Non- disclosure where there might be a risk to the safety /welfare of service users, other staff or self could have serious implications.
The NIDSWP allocations process gives students the opportunity to make an application for consideration of individual circumstances and guidance is provided in relation to the criteria for such an application. The personal tutor should provide direction to a student making an application and assist him/her to make a judgement on the nature and level of detail required.
The student needs to fully understand that in making an application for consideration of individual circumstances he/she is consenting to the information being shared with an allocations panel and subsequently with the Practice Learning Provider. This is stated on the form and in signing the student is indicating that he/she gives consent. Students need to be assured that information will only be shared in circumstances where they have given explicit permission and he/she will be consulted in terms of whom it will be shared with.
Neither the academic institution nor the PLO provider needs to know specific details of the person’s disability or medical condition unless it impacts directly on the kind of support required. They do however need to know what reasonable adjustments are required to ensure that the student is supported in the most appropriate manner.
1.3 Student responsibilities With rights come responsibilities and students need to be made fully aware that they should:
Participate in the negotiation of any supports
Communicate regularly with tutor and practice teacher
Provide constructive feedback on adjustments and raise any concerns as early as possible
Students must also appreciate that if they choose not to disclose then it is likely that the only support available will be the same as that provided for all students
2.0 Brief Legislative and Policy Context. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
From 1st October 2004 disabled people carrying out work placement /training have rights.
The Code of Practice defines a practice learning provider as any person/organisation who provides a work placement to a person whom she/he does not employ.
Practice learning providers have duties not to discriminate against disabled people and are required to make reasonable adjustments.
Duty to make reasonable adjustment applies to PLO provider in the same manner as employers
There is a requirement to be proactive rather than reactive
Part II, 6 (1) of the DDA states: It is the duty of the employer to make adjustments:
(a) any arrangements made by or on behalf of an employer or
(b) any physical feature of premises occupied by the employer,
place the disabled person concerned at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled,
The DDA includes a list of factors which may have a bearing on whether an adjustment is reasonable or not.
The Rules for the Approval of the Degree in Social Work (NISCC, 2003) Require Course Providers to ensure:
“arrangements are in place for making provision for students
with special learning needs” 6.10.3(viii). Furthermore they require that policies and procedures “reflect a commitment to equality, human rights and anti-oppressive practice” 6.10.4 (ii)
The Standards for Practice Learning for the Degree in Social Work, (NISCC: Revised 2009)
Specify the level of performance required by course providers collectively and organisations individually in relation to the planning, delivery and monitoring of practice learning provision.
Standard 2.3 requires that course providers have in place policies and procedures that reflect commitment to equal opportunities, human rights and anti-oppressive practice. Arrangements for allocation, provision and assessment of practice learning must also comply with equal opportunities policies and take account of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act.
Each Course Provider must also ensure the full participation of students with disabilities in practice learning to enable them to learn and develop their practice as social workers.
Standard 3.5 relates to the provision of practice learning opportunities and outlines a number of requirements, including the responsibility of the organisation to include provision of resources to support students with disabilities to achieve learning outcomes and the necessary level of competence.
QAA Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education; Section 3 Disabled students - February 2010establishes a number of principles in relation to provision of education and the entitlements of disabled students.
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 introduced new duties on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity and good relations in relation to disabled people as well as on other grounds.
Data Protection Act 1998
Under the Act, information pertaining to a person’s disability is classified as ‘sensitive personal information’. In practice this means that a student must give explicit permission for any information about his/her disability to be shared with others.
The Tutor meets with Student to discuss individual learning plan and any specific support requirements.
If appropriate Tutor should with Student’s permission liaise with University Disability Support Services.
Student should not assume that disclosure to Tutor will automatically mean PLO provider will be informed. This will only happen where student gives explicit permission.
The student’s support requirements in the workplace can be very different to those in the university.
When Student decides to complete an application for consideration of Individual Circumstances this is presented by University Practice Learning Coordinator to the Pre-Allocations Meeting.
STUDENT IS ALLOCATED PLO
Where Student has disclosed a disability/health condition this may require reasonable adjustments being made. The DPLP Practice Learning Coordinator will share this information with the Practice Teacher.
Information can only be shared with the Student’s explicit permission and should be on a need to know basis.
Practice Teacher and Student should negotiate the nature of the information to be shared and with whom it will be shared. The key question to bear in mind is who needs to know and why?
With the student’s help understand the implications –if –any –of the student’s impairment on the practice learning experience.
Consult with your Area Disability Support Services Officer or Equality Unit for advice concerning possible difficulties/supports.
The Tutor and Student should make contact with Practice Teacher as early as practicable to begin preparation and planning. Student is the best source of information regarding his/her support needs
It may be necessary for the Designated Provider to undertake a risk assessment of activities associated with the workplace and make recommendations. This individual assessment is to ensure the most appropriate supports are identified and put in place. The Student should be fully involved throughout the process.
Practice Teacher should consult with their own Organisation’s Disability Support Services Officer or Equality Unit for advice regarding supports and resources
PRACTICE LEARNING AGREEMENT
Learning Agreement should be negotiated prior to the commencement of practice learning period.
Agreement should include discussion of Student’s particular requirements and the supports required.
Student’s Training Team should identify and agree reasonable adjustments and responsibilities.
Reasonable adjustments in the workplace may be very different from the Student’s learning support needs in university.
If relevant discuss any Health and Safety issues.
Inform line manager and /or Organisation practice learning
coordinator of any additional supports/resources required.
Set a date to review the support and reasonable adjustments, preferably three/four weeks after commencement of practice learning.
Identify respective responsibilities of the DPLP Organisation, University and Student in supporting the Student, including resources.
Practice Teacher, Student, Tutor and On-Site Facilitator (if appropriate) agree a date to review the support and reasonable adjustments, preferably three/four weeks after commencement of practice learning.
MONITORING AND REVIEWING SUPPORT
Reasonable adjustments/supports are implemented
Training Team (including Student) monitors the support requirements in terms of effectiveness. They should be formally reviewed 3 to 4 weeks into the practice learning period and modifications made if deemed appropriate
In the final stage of the practice learning period a further review of the practice learning experience should be undertaken by the student, tutor, practice teacher, on-site facilitator and line manager.
Positives and any issues should be identified and shared with the Organisations Practice Learning Coordinator. Such feedback will inform future planning and developmental work.
Adjustments and supports should be continually monitored throughout the practice learning period and any issues/changes clearly recorded
If issues arise Practice Teacher should consult with the Organisation’s Practice Learning Coordinator.
It is important that issues are raised and addressed at an early stage before they have an opportunity to develop further.
In the event that issues cannot be resolved any complaints, disputes or disagreements should be referred to the Organisation’s and Course Programme policies and procedures as appropriate.
Students can discuss concerns with University Student Support Services, and if available, designated staff within the DPLP.
Positives and any issues should be identified and shared with the Organisation’s Practice Learning Coordinator. Such feedback will inform future planning and developmental work.
*All discussions and agreements reached should be fully recorded
Acknowledgements This guidance draws on the SHSCT ‘Framework for Supporting Disabled Social Work Students’ which was originally adopted regionally in 2008. The Northern Ireland Degree in Social Work Partnership (NIDSWP) acknowledges the contribution of the SHSCT to this revised guidance. The guidance has also been informed by elements of the ‘Best Practice Guide: disabled social work students and placements.’ (2005) with kind permission of Jane Wray, Hull University
USEFUL REFERENCES AND WEBSITES
Campbell, J. and Cowe, T. (1998) ‘Working with Dip SW Students with Dyslexia: a guide for Practice Teachers’, Strathclyde: University of Strathclyde, Faculty of Education
Disability Discrimination Act 1995.London,HMSO
Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 .HMSO
Disability Rights Commission, Employment; A practical guide to the law and best practice for employers: Making rights a reality
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland: www.equalityni.org
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland: Overview of the key changes brought about by the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006.
The Higher Education Academy, Disability legislation: practical guidance for academic staff, Revised 2010,Equality Challenge Unit and Higher Education Academy
A. Kane and C. Gooding (March 2009) ‘Reasonable adjustments in nursing and midwifery : A literature review’ ,Nursing and Midwifery Council
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (Dec. 2002): Code of Practice for Employers of Social Care Workers and Code of Practice for Social Care Workers, Belfast, NISCC.
Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (March 2003) Northern Ireland Framework Specification for the Degree in Social Work. DHSSPS: Belfast.
Address behaviour which presents a risk to the wider public, individuals, families, carers, groups and communities
Take immediate action to deal with behaviour that presents a risk to the wider public, including Service Users, Carers, or colleagues, (D31)
Work with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and others to identify and evaluate situations and circumstances that may trigger risk behaviour and to reduce or contain the level of risk; (D32)
Plan and manage intervention in ways that could positively change the identified risk (D33)
2 and 3
Minutes of strategy/case discussion meetings
Key Role 3: Support individuals to represent their needs, views and circumstances
and to achieve greater independence
Practice Learning Level
Practice Learning Indicators
Practice Learning Evidence
Advocate with, and on behalf of, individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to help them achieve and sustain greater independence
Assess to what extent the Social Worker should act as advocate for the individual, family, carer, group or community; (D34)
Assist individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to access independent advocacy; (D35)
Advocate for, and with, individuals, families, carers, groups and communities as appropriate; (D36)
Assist people who use services in the management of their affairs, including financial management; (D37)
Contribute with others to enabling Service Users to achieve and sustain greater independence; (D38)
2 and 3
Referrals to other agencies
Grant aid applications
PCP’s and Essential Lifestyle Plans
Practice Learning Level
Practice Learning Indicators
Practice Learning Evidence
Prepare for, and participate in decision-making forums, and assist others (where appropriate) to do so as well
Prepare reports and documents for decision-making forums, including courts, tribunals and other formal hearings; (D39)
Work with individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to select the best forms of representation; (D40)
Present reports and evidence to decision-making forums, including courts, tribunals and other formal hearings; (D41)
Help individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to understand procedures and the possible and actual outcomes; (D42)
Enable individuals, families, carers, groups and communities to be involved in decision-making forums. (D43)