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Foundations for social work practice

Are you interested in social work or social care? Whatever your starting point, this key introductory OU level 1 module will develop your knowledge of the key roles of social care/social work, and introduce the standards and codes of practice relevant to each UK nation. You will also build key skills in information and communication technologies (ICT), information literacy and reflective writing. This module includes completion of a practice portfolio based on your current experience (within six months of module start) of paid or voluntary work in an appropriate social care setting. The module also includes participation in three online practice skills workshops, and four online tutorials.

This is a compulsory module of the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice (Wales) and provides a qualification for employees in the social care workforce who make a vital contribution to assessment, review and evaluation of social care services. The Certificate has been chosen by the Care Council for Wales for its pilot Social Services Practitioner programme.

Registration on this module doesn't lead to automatic entry to a social work degree. To register for this degree, you must meet a number of criteria, outlined in the sections on the BA (Honours) Social Work (Wales).

This module is only for students in Wales and you should have recent paid or unpaid experience in a social care setting.

Students studying in England or Scotland should refer to Foundations for social work practice (K113).

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

Browse qualifications in related subjects


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module concentrates on writing about practice, and learning how to apply theoretical learning to practice contexts. The module is divided into eight blocks of learning. Each block covers a particular aspect of understanding social work and use case study material to illustrate and apply these ideas into practice situations.

Block 1 - provides an overview of some of the ideas about how individual psychology and identity are relevant to all social work settings. This includes what values underpin professional identity in the complex situations social workers deal with.

Block 2 - explores the social context that is important both to understand how services are delivered, but also the wider supports and environments that can support or restrict people’s opportunities and life chances. How social workers are concerned with these inequalities, and issues of social justice are examined.

Block 3 - uses children and family work to consider how and why social workers might come to be engaged with people.

Block 4 - concentrates on using issues facing older people in coming to consider the skills and approaches to formal assessment in social work, and how to establish an understanding of someone’s situation.

Block 5 - develops social work approaches of groups and community work to support people with mental health distress. The themes of stigma and discrimination are explored in particular and the models of the constructive ways social workers can address these issues.

Block 6 - provides information about adults with learning disabilities and in particular how their engagement in reviews of services they receive personally, or more general service reviews and evaluations is an important principle for social work with all who use services and their carers.

Block 7 - uses models of work with families with children with disabilities to consider partnership working and ideas of early intervention in social work.

Block 8 - concentrates on the issues of professional development and understanding of the personal and regulatory requirements for individuals wishing to develop their professionalism generally or continue with the social work programme.

The module draws upon case-study-based teaching but also assumes you will be working in a practice context through which you can contextualise your learning. You must demonstrate an awareness and understanding of diversity and inequality, and develop an awareness of yourself as a reflective practitioner.

During this module you will develop your ICT skills and can gain marks for this both in continuous assessment and in the end-of-module assessment. There are also online discussions that take place immediately after each workshop to continue your interactions with your tutor and fellow students and develop your online communication skills.

Professional recognition

This is one of two modules that make up the Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care Practice, the current qualification for Social Services Practitioners in Wales. It is also one of a set of modules that together constitute an approved programme leading to a Degree in Social Work approved by Social Care Wales.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You will also have a tutor who will support you with your practice portfolio. Part of your tuition is delivered online so some of the contact with your tutor will be through email and online discussion forums, although phone communication may also be used. If you’re new to the OU, you’ll find your tutor is particularly keen to help you develop your study skills. You will also have a tutor who will support you with your practice portfolio.

You’ll attend three face-to-face practice skills workshops and four online tutorials with your tutor group, to provide you with the chance to explore the skills needed for social work and social care practice. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we may replace face-to-face events with an online alternative.

Requests to be excused from a workshop are dealt with by the tutor who is running it. Compensatory activities will be assigned by your tutor for any workshops that are missed. Questions regarding professional practice should be directed to your tutor.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. You must submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) online. You will be encouraged to use Welsh in your studies, and academic support is available in Welsh if you need it.

To pass the module, you must pass the practice assessment (portfolio) element of the module (TMA 14) as well as the academic element.

The interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) are accessed via the website. You are welcome to write your assessed work in either Welsh or English. 

It is a condition of the module assessment that to pass the course you must not have engaged in behaviour that is confirmed as being damaging or dangerous to service users or to other students or programme providers, or that creates an unacceptable risk to yourself or to others.

Future availability

Foundations for social work practice starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2022, the last time it will be available for study.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    8 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, which help you to progress to modules at OU level 2 should you wish to do so.

    In order to ensure success in this module, you'll need to have some experience of working in a social care setting. Relevant experience would include providing information about accessing services and contributing to assessment, planning, delivery and review. If you intend to go on to apply for a place on the BA (Hons) Social Work (Wales), you'll need to ensure that you have completed 455 hours of relevant practice by the time you apply.

    If you have been sponsored to complete the module, your sponsoring agency should allow you one day a week study time per 60 credits of study. If your employer is sponsoring you to study this module as part of the social work programme, you must be registered for the BA (Honours) Social Work (Wales), and be registered as a social work student with Social Care Wales.

    If you're not sponsored onto the social work degree programme by your employer, you will need to speak to a member for the Wales Learner Support Team prior to registering for this module, in order to confirm the suitability of your practice experience.

    Studying social care/social work is demanding, if you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, or you would like further information for sponsoring agencies, please speak to an adviser or contact

    Preparatory work

    You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


    Start End England fee Register
    29 Jan 2022 Sep 2022 £3168.00

    To register for this course - see 'Entry requirements'. Registration closes 13/01/22

    February 2022 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    To register for this module, please refer to the entry requirements and contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service (online registration is not available).

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 02/12/2021.

    What's included

    All study materials are provided. The main mode of delivery of the teaching is through the module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-wee study planner
    • module-specific materials
    • audio and video content
    • assignment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access

    You’ll also be provided with printed resources – the Social Work Handbook for your nation, printed copies of the web pages for each block of study, supplementary readings, a Practice Workshop Guide and a Practice skills envelope which provides information about what is required from practice settings.

    You will need

    We recommend that you purchase the following book:
    Davies, M. (ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Work (4th edn) Wiley-Blackwell £28.99 - ISBN 9781118451724.

    Social work settings almost always require the use of Windows-based computers and Microsoft Office applications. Students should ensure that they have access to the above software for the duration of the programme, and we strongly recommend that they are run on a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying KZW113 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.