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Special fieldwork arrangements in response to the persistent public health concern brought about by the COVID-19

In view of the adverse impacts of COVID-19 pandemic affecting the fieldwork arrangement, Social Workers Registration Board (“the Board”) would like to reiterate the 7 guiding principles which all Tertiary Institutions (“TIs”) have been informed of in August 2020, and agrees to extend their applicability to the academic year 2022/23.

  1. The health and safety of students, teachers and service users are of prime importance and should be considered and ensured when applying any changes to the teaching and fieldwork arrangement.
  2. Provided that the basic requirements set in the Principles, Criteria and Standards for Recognising Qualifications in Social Work for Registration of Registered Social Workers(“PCS”) are duly observed, the Board would embrace the reasonable and innovative measures flexibly adopted by TIs, like allowing students to WFH for preparing or completing fieldwork learning tasks, using internet technologies for interactions with service users; for mitigating risks of actual face-to-face interactions. As a reminder, the achievement of the educational purpose of fieldwork is laden on direct practice with service users. 
  3. When placement units have adopted any form of WFH arrangement for its service delivery, the Board recognises that the placement units would require also the students to follow their measures like rotation system and shortening of working hours in office. Under these circumstances, the Board entrusts TIs to negotiate with the placement units for students having sufficient workload and learning opportunities while following the WFH policy of the organization. The WFH portion could be counted as part of the placement hours. 
  4. When WFH has become a new operational or service delivery model, the Board would accept that “on-site” is to be embedded such WFH element (besides the traditional one of physically attending at the placement units) when the requirement of at least 50 percent of on-site supervision as stated in sub-section of 4.1.5(c)(ii) is to be observed and complied with. To illustrate, when a placement unit adopts the WFH policy to require staff members to work 40% of working hours at home and 60% at office premises, the on-site supervision could then be including 40% in WFH settings (like video call or web meeting) and 60% physical attendance at the placement unit, i.e. at least 30% of the “total supervision time” to be of physical attendance at the placement unit.
  5. Flexibility should be applied on a need basis with all known alternatives examined and explored for implementation for better delivery of the programme. We trust the TIs who will be adopting practicable and reasonable approaches to make any changes to the fieldwork, as well as teaching, arrangements.
  6. The allowance of flexibility on fieldwork is now extended to the placements of the academic year 2022/23.
  7. The Board respects the autonomy of TIs to make accountable and appropriate adjustments in this adversity. At the same time, the Board strives for professional quality of social workers and entrusts in TIs to maintain, professionally and ethically, the good quality of fieldwork education when they deploy the contingency plans.

The TIs are asked to keep a clear record of any special measures adopted. The Board appreciates the TIs’ effort in delivering the best of teaching and learning in this difficult time, and stays collaborating with the TIs for good professional education in social work.

March 2022

(Remark: English version prevails over Chinese version if there is any discrepancy.)