Social Work Inherent Requirements

Inherent requirements are those skills, values and behaviours which students must demonstrate in order to complete a program of study. Although inherent requirements are non-negotiable, there may be a range of ways in which these can be demonstrated. 

While the focus of inherent requirements has often been applied particularly to students with a disability, students with other circumstances may also benefit from adjustments which make their program of study more accessible.


Related courses

H330 Bachelor of Social Work
H430 Bachelor of Social Work (Honours)
H703 Master of Social Work

Reasonable adjustments 

'Reasonable adjustments' refers to the adjustments made by Deakin and placement agencies to accommodate the learning needs of students without compromising the academic integrity of the program. 

These may include adjustments to learning and teaching activities, assessment tasks and other course requirements.

Social work education at Deakin 

The social work profession is broad and diverse, but consistently committed to:

  • human rights
  • social justice
  • enhancement of quality of life
  • the development of the full potential of each individual, family, group and community.

With a focus on anti-oppressive practice, equity and diversity, and critical social work perspectives, Deakin social work students will examine strategies of empowerment, along with critically-reflective approaches to social work practice.

Courses offered

The School of Health and Social Development offers a range of courses at the Bachelor, Bachelor (Honours) and Masters level which prepare students for professional practice within a wide range of practice settings in the health and community services sectors. 

These courses are accredited by the Australian Associate of Social Workers (AASW, 2012) in accordance with the principles and standards of the Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS) documents. 

Social work is a demanding profession and the core curriculum requirements spelt out in the ASWEAS are challenging for many students, e.g. child protection and mental health.

Supervised placements

The ASWEAS stipulates that all students complete 1,000 hours of supervised placements in order to qualify as a social worker. 

Deakin social work students complete two placements, each of 500 hours in different organisations, and at a range of health and community services agencies. Placements can be undertaken five days a week for 14 weeks, four days a week for 17 weeks or three days a week for 23 weeks. 

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the ASWEAS states that students should not take a break during the placement. Extenuating circumstances as defined by the ASWEAS do not include childcare or employment commitments. Nor can students be exempted from working with service users and/or professional colleagues of one gender or any other demographic characteristic.

Attributes for Australian social workers

The AASW has identified nine graduate attributes for Australian social workers that are based on the AASW’s Practice Standards 2013, and are underpinned by knowledge, values and skills that students develop through their social work degree:

  1. Demonstrated sense of identity as a professional social worker.
  2. Sound understanding of and commitment to social work values and ethics to guide professional practice.
  3. Ability to apply social work knowledge and interventions to respond effectively in meeting the needs of individuals, groups and communities in diverse settings, client groups and geographic locations.
  4. Ability to apply knowledge of human behaviour and society, as well as the social, cultural, political, legal, economic and global contexts of practice to respond effectively within a human rights and social justice framework.
  5. Ability to review, critically analyse and synthesise knowledge and values and apply reflective thinking skills to inform professional judgement and practice.
  6. Ability to apply research knowledge and skills to understand, evaluate and use research to inform practice and to develop, execute and disseminate research informed by practice.
  7. Demonstration of effective communication and interpersonal skills.
  8. Ability to work with diversity and demonstrate respect for cultural difference.
  9. Understanding of the importance of and commitment to ongoing professional development.

(AASW, 2012 pp. 6-9)

Professional behaviour

The social work program has a strong emphasis on professional behaviour. Students are expected to act in accordance with the Code of Ethics of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW, 2010) as well as comply with the academic conduct policies of Deakin University and relevant Australian legislation. 

Progression through the course and graduation is contingent on demonstrating professional attitudes and behaviour throughout the course, and certain assessments are linked to this expectation, as these are essential for social work practice. For example, in all aspects of their professional life, social workers must refrain from displaying any discriminatory behaviour.

Any adjustments to course requirements for individual students must not compromise the Code of Ethics and result in unethical behaviour. For example, students requiring assistance to collect or work with confidential agency information may require permission from a placement provider to utilise the assistance of a learning support worker.

Adjustments to course requirements must also not compromise academic policies of Deakin University or result in illegal behaviour.

Learning skills

Social work education is a continuum of professional development beginning with entry into a degree program leading to a formal qualification as a social worker then continuing professional education to maintain currency as a lifelong progression.

During the academic and placement components of a social work degree, students are expected to attend seminars and classes, and/or participate in online learning activities. In-person attendance for some activities, including placement, is compulsory.

Social work degrees are demanding and students require cognitive skills to solve complex problems. Social work practice requires the ability to conduct comprehensive and focussed assessments, and plan, implement and evaluate interventions and programs which seek to serve the needs of individuals, families, groups and communities. Consequently, the ability to process complex verbal, written and other forms of information is essential.

Students must be able to work collaboratively during the course and establish working relationships with other students, university staff and placement providers including participating in meetings and presenting to groups in professional contexts. They must be able to demonstrate the capacity for critical reflection on their own practice and on the practice of others, respond professionally to feedback and engage in professional supervision.

Any adjustments need to reflect the understanding of social work and requirements for social work education as spelt out in the ASWEAS documents. For example, it is not possible to exempt a student from all group work activities in their degree as students must be able to demonstrate their ability to work collaboratively with others. However, there may be scope to make adjustments to this requirement on particular occasions, provided there are sufficient other situations when the student has the opportunity to demonstrate this requirement.

Behavioural and social skills

Social work practice occurs in challenging and unpredictable environments and involves working with people experiencing crises. Therefore, social work students must be able to develop and maintain professional relationships with service users and colleagues. 

Students must also be able to complete demanding workloads under stressful conditions in which they are required to effectively adapt processes according to the presenting circumstances. While students are expected to be compassionate and emotionally robust, they should also be able to recognise situations where their emotional or physical state precludes effective delivery of services and manage these in a professional manner.

Students should endeavour to ensure the consequences of any physical or mental health problem, and/or the treatment associated with any health condition, are well controlled, such that they are able to deal with the rigours of a demanding and, at times, inflexible course curriculum. 

Students must recognise that participation in, and travel to and from, placements is a requirement of the course, and that professional interactions with both service users and colleagues is expected and required at all times.

Any adjustments should aim to support students to sustain professional behaviour in academic and/or placement settings for a negotiated period of time.

Communication and interpersonal skills

Social work practice in Australia requires advanced oral and written communication skills in the English language. Practitioners need to communicate effectively and sensitively with service users and carers from all walks of life, irrespective of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religious beliefs or physical or psychological disability. 

An ability to gather, synthesise and apply information by verbal, written, and non-verbal means of communication is essential. Social workers must also be capable of delivering concise, comprehensible written and verbal advice to individuals or groups of services users, carers and professional colleagues.

Any adjustments must not compromise the clarity and accuracy of the information provided and must be effective and timely.

Social work knowledge

Social workers need to be able to identify relevant knowledge and utilise appropriate theories and skills in order to effectively understand and respond to the situations of individuals, families, groups and/or communities. 

The ASWEAS specifies a range of knowledge and practice approaches which all social work graduates are expected to be familiar with. Consequently, students cannot be exempted from being exposed to particular knowledge or approaches on the basis that these will not be needed in their anticipated fields of work.

Any adjustments must ensure that graduates have all the relevant skills and knowledge expected of a social worker.

Other issues

Students with a criminal record

Students with a criminal record are not precluded from enrolling in social work degrees at Deakin but may face difficulties in obtaining placements which are required to complete the degree. 

Most agencies require students to obtain a police check and/or a Working with Children Check and may decline to accept a student on placement due to the nature of the information about their offending and the timing of the last offence. 

In particular, many agencies are reluctant to place students whom they perceive may place service users staff or the organisation itself at risk, e.g. when offending has involved crimes of violence against children or adults, or crimes of deception such as fraud and embezzlement.

Students without a driver’s licence

Deakin doesn't require any student to have a driver’s licence but encourages students to obtain one if possible. Many placement providers expect students to hold a full driver’s licence and students who do not have this may be limited in the placement opportunities available to them. 

Organisations which require students to drive as part of their placement work should provide access to an agency vehicle and not expect students to have their own car.

Infectious diseases

Deakin recommends, but does not require, students to be immunised for the Hepatitis B infection. 

Students are a potential source of infection for service users and colleagues and may be required to comply with any requirements for immunisation as specified by a particular placement provider. 

Students who have not been immunised may be limited in the placement opportunities available to them.

References

In developing the inherent requirements for social work at Deakin, we have drawn on ideas developed by social work staff at the University of Western Sydney and The Flinders University of South Australia, as well as statements of inherent requirements developed by various courses in the Faculty of Health at Deakin University.

View the Australian Association of Social Workers (2010) Code of Ethics. Canberra: AASW.

View the Australian Association of Social workers [AASW] (2012) Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards 2012 (ASWEAS). Canberra: AASW.

View the Australian Association of Social Workers (2013) Practice Standards 2013. Canberra: AASW.