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Foundations for social care and social work practice

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Are you interested in social care or social work in Northern Ireland? This module helps expand your understanding of how to work with others while developing your knowledge of the key skills required for working within social care and/or social work. Learning and practicing these skills is a requirement of this module. It is a compulsory element of this module that you are either working in a social care setting or have a confirmed voluntary role in an appropriate setting to study.

This module is subject to approval by the regulatory body. K123 is an alternative version of this module for students in England, Scotland and Wales.

What you will study

This key introductory module will develop your understanding of key social care and social work skills. Throughout the module, you’ll cover the following topics:

Block 1 – Contextualising social care and social work
You’ll be introduced to the role and purpose of social care/social work and the role of the social care professional. You will explore what it means to live and work in our society and consider different people’s lived experiences.

Block 2 – Engaging with people
You will look in detail at communication skills, how to build rapport and actively listen to the life experiences of the people you are working with. You will explore the ways in which you may need to be creative and responsive to the specific communication needs of others.

Block 3 – Reflecting on our practice
You’ll look at anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice - examining how we respond to discrimination, oppression and structural disadvantage. You will explore the importance of diversity in human identity and experience and consider ethical principles and values in practice and their impact on practice.

Block 4 – Assessing needs and risks
You’ll look at the role of assessment planning and intervention in social care/social work, including an introduction to your role in risk assessment and safeguarding, personalisation, and care planning. You will also consider evaluating outcomes of social care and social work interventions.

Block 5 – Being a professional
Finally, you’ll look at what it means to be a professional, including leadership, continuing professional development and personal development planning. You’ll explore emotional intelligence, wellbeing and the importance of resilience and self-care. The block concludes by looking at moving on to the next stages of your studies and/or career.

In addition to passing the assessed tasks for this module, which cover a variety of topics and require you to reflect on your learning throughout, you are also required to:

1. Complete a minimum period of 10 verified practice learning days in a social care/social work setting.
It is a requirement that you have work-based learning arrangements in place before enrolling for this module. A manager or appropriate person in your social care/social work setting must verify this practice learning has taken place – they are signing to say that you are ready or prepared for further practice if/when you continue to train as a social worker and undertake longer assessed placements. To carry out this practice experience, you may be asked to provide a current AccessNI Check certificate. If you don’t have a certificate and one is required, it will be your responsibility to negotiate and fund it. At the end of you verified practice learning, you will be required to complete an e-portfolio of work. This is mapped against the standards required for practice in the nation within which you work.

2. Actively participate in five face-to-face workshops each lasting six hours.
You’ll be required to participate in all of the workshops as they build towards the tutor-marked assignment tasks and e-portfolio. These act as the link between the module materials that you study and your ongoing practice learning experience in the workplace. There is a minimum requirement of 80% attendance at these workshops. If you are unable to attend you tutor group workshop, you will be able to attend the same workshop on an alternative date with a different group. Please note that you are required to demonstrate 100% engagement with workshop activities and so if 20% attendance is missing, the equivalent compensatory activities will need to be completed.

If you plan to study towards a social work qualification, please note that passing Foundations for social care and social work practice (KZNI123) does not lead to automatic entry on to a social work degree course. For more information, visit our Social Work degrees.


You will learn

By completing this module you will learn:

  • the professional standards and ethical codes relevant to social care and social work in each nation of the UK
  • about the development of the key roles of social care and social work with individuals, families, groups and communities
  • main areas of knowledge, skills, values and processes underpinning social care and social work, that will enable you to apply them to practice and/or case study examples
  • awareness of professional identity across the UK and internationally
  • key digital and information literacy skills and reflective writing.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module However, you will need access to a social care/social work setting to complete your verified practice learning. This can include voluntary work or through your employing agency.

You should be living in Northern Ireland so that you can attend the five mandatory workshops in person.

Studying the BA (Hons) Social Work (Northern Ireland)

To study this module as part of a social work degree, you must:

  • have registered for the honours degree in social work in Northern Ireland or have declared it as your qualification intention
  • be sponsored by your employing agency
  • be currently working in a practice context.

Your sponsoring agency will provide you with appropriate practice learning opportunities. Sponsoring agencies should speak to an adviser for further information.

Studying social work is demanding; if you would like to discuss the suitability of the module, or to register, please contact us.

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-week study planner
  • module-specific materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • regular facilitated face-to-face workshops

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Facilitating your regular workshops to bring the module materials to life; this will include facilitating discussion, setting small group work tasks and activities and encouraging you to share and reflect on examples from your own work experience and practice.
  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Helping you to consolidate your learning and consider practice in your nation and locality
  • Supporting you to collate the evidence for your e-portfolio
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors will also support a forum, allowing students to post and respond to comments and reflections throughout the module. TMA sessions will be delivered by the module team and will be recorded in order to ensure everyone has access to the information provided.

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying KZNI123 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

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

This page describes the module that will start in February 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2030.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No examination