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Foundations for social work practice

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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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Course work includes:

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