§ Rev. William McCrea
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action the DHSS is taking to assist in the recruitment and training of specialist social workers for the blind.
§ Mr. Hanley
The Department of Health and Social Services presently provides funding for the award of 68 new social work bursaries per annum to enable students to obtain certificates of qualifications in social work. This generic qualifying training provides preparation for all aspects of social work. Specialist qualifying training For social workers for the visually impaired is not available. The recent announcement of a new training strategy for personal social services staff provides an additional £1 million for social services training improvements, a proportion of which will be used to increase the supply of qualified social workers through an additional 25 social work bursaries per annum.
Continuing education and training for qualified social workers in specialist areas, including workers with the visually impaired, is provided by Health and Social Services Board and other employers through in-service and post-qualification training programmes. Additional funding to expand and develop relevant programmes of further training has been included in the training strategy funds and will be made available to appropriate employers in the forthcoming financial year.
The Department also provides two bursaries per annum for students undergoing training as rehabilitation workers for the blind.