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PG Dip/MA Social Work (Children and Families)

This new, fast-track social work course focusing on children, young people and their families will enable trainee social workers to build upon their existing knowledge and skills, and develop the expertise required for social work practice. 

The Department of Education will be funding this course through a cluster of local authorities which includes Dorset, Bournemouth, Poole and Wiltshire, with all applications being made directly to them. You’ll have the option to continue your studies from a Postgraduate Diploma to a Master’s by undertaking a dissertation which will be self-funded.

This course gives you the opportunity to study in a high-profile and nationally recognised department and benefit from direct access to research active and internationally linked academic staff. If you already hold an undergraduate degree and are interested in specialising in work with children and young people, this is the ideal social work course option.

The next intake starting in January 2018 is now closed for applications. It is not currently confirmed if there will be any further intakes for this course. 

Key information

Next start date:

January 2018


Bournemouth University, Lansdowne Campus


14 months to complete the PG Dip


Health & Care Professions Council

Entry requirements:

Applicants will normally have a 2:1 degree in any subject area. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 7.0 (Academic) or above. For more information check out our full entry requirements

Course details

This course is an intensive full-time training programme that could see you start a career as a social worker in just 14 months, whilst receiving a Department of Education bursary in addition to course fees. Although this qualification is in Children and Families Social Work, it qualifies as a generic social work qualification. On this course you will usually be taught by a range of staff with relevant expertise and knowledge appropriate to the content of the unit. This will include senior academic staff, qualified professional practitioners, demonstrators, technicians and research students.

Core units:

  • Personal Development for Social Work: You will develop your knowledge and skills to prepare you for your substantive placement units. You will develop your skills and knowledge, against the Department for Education framework for work with children and families and the HCPC Codes of practice, so that you are ready to safely undertake practice learning.
  • The Child’s Journey: You'll learn knowledge and understanding of child development and behaviour and different sociological and psychological explanations for this. You will be encouraged to consider the interplay of psycho-social factors on the lives of children and young people, exploring a range of influences on human development including the impact of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability.
  • Law and Social Policy for Social Work with Children and Families: You will develop a critical understanding of law and social policy, social work values and ethics and considerations relevant to child and family social work. You will explore the implications of social work values and ethics and how they apply to the promotion of the best interests of children and young people.
  • Models, Methods and Approaches for Social Work Intervention for Child and Family Social Work: You will be encouraged to consider a range of models, methods and approaches for social work intervention. This unit will equip you with a critical understanding of the complex and multi-layered nature of social work, including the challenges of practicing professional social work with a diverse range of social work service users and carers.
  • Parenting Capacity for Social Work with Children and Families: This unit will help you develop an in-depth understanding of the multiple factors that contribute to parental mental health, substance-related and domestic violence related problems and, crucially, the impact upon the child, including child development.
  • Working with Risk and Complexity for Child and Family Social Workers: You will develop knowledge and understanding of social work in the context of protection; including responsibilities, analytical skills and knowledge, practical skills and professional accountability. You will develop their understanding and competence in assessment and intervention and will be expected to examine their own beliefs and values in relation to protection work.
  • Two Statutory Placements (70 & 100 days): You will gain essential practice experiences required in meeting the regulations of the professional body.

If you would like to complete the full Master's, you will complete the above units as well as two additional units: 

  • Preparing for your Service Improvement Project: A service improvement project (SIP) aims to better a service or services. You'll learn about an appropriate, systematic and justified methodology in a complex professional area to design an original, intellectually challenging and in-depth SIP action plan for your professional context.

  • Service Improvement Project: You'll show your autonomous and independent ability in a complex professional context to expand or redefine existing knowledge or develop new approaches to service improvement, and then evaluate your SIP's impact.

Applicants for this course should apply directly to the Department for Education via their website. Candidates will then be jointly interviewed by local authority representatives and the University.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

Download the programme specification for MA Social Work (Children and Families).

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

Placement opportunities

You will undertake two work placements as part of this course. During the placement you will be expected to integrate theory and practice and to complete a practice learning portfolio. The practice learning placement will facilitate the development of your social work skills, knowledge, critical analysis and evidence-based application of knowledge.

The wide range of placements include social work teams delivering services to children and families, hospital social work teams, residential and day care settings, drug and alcohol services, mental health services, supported housing and homelessness schemes and projects for young people experiencing home and school difficulties.

Selection criteria

Background and experience

For Social Work, we are looking for applicants who:

  • Have an awareness of the role of a Social Worker within society
  • Have a non-judgemental attitude, an appreciation of diversity and self-awareness, flexibility and openness to new ideas
  • Can demonstrate relevant skills such as listening, negotiating and advocacy
  • Have life experiences which may have influenced the applicant to think about a career in social work.

Students are expected to have relevant experience in social work and/or social care and show that they have learnt from this experience. The longer and more varied that experience, the better. Examples of the sort of experience that candidates often have are:

  • Employment as a carer in a residential home
  • Being a volunteer in an agency working with young offenders
  • Paid or voluntary work in a day centre for people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or mental health problems
  • Work on summer play schemes and/or after school clubs
  • Personal experience as a service user or carer.

Selection methods

All successfully shortlisted applicants are invited to interview. This will demonstrate whether you show the necessary insight into social work, as well as the motivation and commitment to become a social worker.

Full entry requirements

The normal requirements for embarking upon this course are:

  • Applicants will normally have a 2:1 degree in any subject area.

International entry requirements 

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

  •  IELTS (academic) 7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our international entry requirements page.

How to apply

The next intake starting in January 2018 is now closed for applications. It is not currently confirmed if there will be any further intakes for this course. This webpage will be updated as soon as this is announced.


Employment opportunities include work within Local Authorities' Children and Families teams and all aspects of social work with children, young people and their families.

Course changes

The table below indicates the latest changes to this course.

Date Changes to this course Where the change was made Previous text
20/07/17 Incorrect IELTS requirements were previously published. Updated to:

IELTS (academic) 7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

Full entry requirements

IELTS (academic) 7.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each component, or equivalent.

Additional information

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What our students say

Pennie Pinder

All the academics have been very supportive throughout my course and provide detailed feedback on assignments so that you can always improve.

Hear from our staff

Richard Williams

Social Work is not a discipline for the faint-hearted and our students develop personally and professionally; they embrace the learning opportunities and the challenges these opportunities provide and the outcome is high quality practitioners.

Hear from our staff

Jennifer Bigmore

The National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work offers a flexible approach to CPD, ensuring that you have the high quality knowledge and skills needed to face the future.