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Policies for students

Placement policy in response to COVID-19

This policy sets out the University of Otago’s Social and Community Work programme position on placements given the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement. Students in the Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social and Community Work (applied) normally complete 120 days of placement in agencies over two years of their degrees.

The two prioritised principles this policy is guided by are:

  • reducing student's direct risk of contracting the virus, and;
  • stopping student's possibility of contributing to spread of the virus.

Other principles beneath these prioritised principles are enabling students to:

  • contribute to responses to community need;
  • meet their learning objectives, and;
  • complete the required number of days/hours as per Social Workers Registration Board and University of Otago programme requirements.
  1. When the government alert level is at level 3 or 4, the only placements to continue or begin are those that:
    1. can be undertaken while a student remains in their home bubble (that is entirely online, working from home);
    2. or those where the student is already employed in an essential service and the placement will take place in that agency.
  2. When the government alert level is at level 1 or 2, all placements can continue/begin as long as:
    1. agencies are operationalising social distancing, work bubbles and hand hygiene policies as per Ministry of Health guidance;
    2. and both students and agencies are in agreement to continue/begin.

The Social and Community Work Programme will ask additional questions of placement agencies to check that MOH distancing and hygiene guidelines are being met.

Students in high risk groups

Students who are over 70 or with other underlying health issues as listed by the Ministry of Health will be allowed to do online/working from home placements at level 2, if they choose to.

Regional differences

Students undertaking placements in different national locations will be covered by the regional alert level that applies to the area they are undertaking their placement within.

Social Workers Registration Board guidance

In terms of the number of days and hours for completion, and placement settings rules, we are bound by the Social Workers Registration Board’s amended programme standards that apply to levels 3 and 4.

Social Workers Registration Board’s programme standards

In summary, this guidance:

  • will require 120 days or 900 hours of placement
  • allows the inclusion of any days/hours completed in a placement that had to be suspended due to COVID - 19 to be counted towards the total
  • allows the counting of any blocks of time less than 7.5 hours (effectively making part-time placements possible)
  • allows for multiple placements to make up the days/hours, with a minimum of 20 days in any one placement
  • allows for two placements in the same agency as long as two different fields of practice and field educators are in place. This includes two placements within the student’s place of work. (PRS. 3.1, 3.9, 3.11)
  • TEI’s can develop online alternatives to field education for a single placement of no more than 60 days, that can be supervised by an experienced social work practitioner or a registered social worker member of academic staff (PRS. 3.2).
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Review and Exclusion from the Programme policy

  1. A student's place in the programme may be reviewed at any time if the student has:
    1. failed a fieldwork placement or the prerequisite SOWK 320;
    2. failed any of the other compulsory papers of the programme at a second attempt;
    3. not been placed in a fieldwork placement due to concerns raised by more than two fieldwork agencies;
    4. committed a criminal offence (whether or not a conviction has been entered);
    5. engaged in unethical conduct;
    6. exhibited significant and ongoing physical or mental health difficulties that may prevent him or her from being able to work safely in professional settings;
    7. failed to declare a matter covered by (iv)-(vi).
  2. The processes for a review shall be those contained in the Division of Humanities' Procedure for Reviewing a Student's Place in the Social Work Programme. After the review process a student may:
    1. have mandated tasks to complete;
    2. be excluded from the programme for a period of time; or
    3. be permanently excluded from the programme by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).