Practice Development Unit

Extern’s Practice Development Unit has delivered learning and development services both for Extern staff and externally for over 20 years.

The Unit of 3 staff provides training for Extern staff, voluntary sector social care organisations; criminal justice sector organisations, social workers in the voluntary sector and criminal justice sectors, Universities, and social work students on placement.

Extern’s Practice Development Unit is acknowledged as the leading provider of social work practice learning in Northern Ireland. It provides three times as many placements as the next largest provider in the independent sector in NI. The Unit provides an internal student service as an NISCC-designated Practice Learning Provider and an external student service for the Voluntary Sector.

Extern provides a range of learning opportunities for students across NI, including specialist placements, for example with homeless people and offenders. The Unit delivers services under a contract with the NI Social Care council (NISCC). The team has been the University of Ulster Extern Placement Provider of the Year in the large employer class.

Extern - Practice Development Unit

The Unit places students with many of our projects. It supports staff and management in these sites to take students and provide them with a valuable learning experience that contributes to their development as professionals. While on placement, the Unit trains, supervises and assesses students.

The Unit also assists other voluntary organisations to develop and meet the standards for placement providers and provides support for students and staff in these organisations to assist them in providing placements. This support takes the form of a voluntary sector student induction, student support groups, library and study space for students, training, support and quality assurance of practice teachers and consultancy, should difficulties arise.

In addition to practice based learning, the Unit delivers and co-ordinates teaching inputs on both social work degrees in NI.

The Unit’s Voluntary Sector Communication and Learning Service (VOCALS) ensures that voluntary sector social work employers in NI are active and influential participants in policy development, social work education and placement provision. As a consequence of the lobbying and developmental work of VOCALS there are now 18 voluntary sector Designated Practice Learning Providers in NI and rapidly growing numbers of Associate Providers of Practice Learning. To enable this to happen, VOCALS shares the model of social work education, systems and policies developed by Extern with other organisations and coaches them in meeting the standard expected.

VOCALS provides an interface between the DHSSPSNI, NISCC, Universities and the Social Work Degree Partnership and voluntary sector social work organisations. It facilitates communication and consultation between the stakeholders to ensure that voluntary sector employers are central to decision-making and policy development.

A key role for VOCALS is the co-ordination of all social work placements for the voluntary sector. This co-ordination has contributed to the voluntary sector establishing a position as a key provider of practice based learning for social work students. In turn, this ensures that social workers are familiar with, trained and sympathetic to work within the sector.

The Unit’s International Student Service is a new service that offers professional social work placements to Students from outside Northern Ireland. This can enable students to gain recognition from the NISCC for a qualification gained elsewhere. Alternatively, placements in Northern Ireland are often sought after as part of professional training pathways by students from around the world.

Extern’s Voluntary Sector Post Qualifying Social Work Service has been acknowledged by the NISCC and the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland as a most effective and innovative provider of post qualifying / postgraduate social work support for voluntary and private sector social workers in NI. The Service is delivered under contract from the NISCC. This service has enabled voluntary sector social workers to attain post qualifying professional qualifications in numbers and value unmatched by any other provider.

Extern’s Practice Development Unit designs and delivers high quality bespoke learning and development to enable Extern staff and services to realise their potential and manage risk. This service also enables Extern to comply with the increasing range of mandatory training required by commissioners and inspectors. Learning and development activity is shaped by an internal needs analysis and environmental scanning and is ultimately aimed at supporting the achievement of corporate objectives. Learning and development enables us to retain and develop staff, provide high quality and safe services, respond to change and comply with policy, regulation, contractual and registration requirements.

The current Extern internal training plan incorporates training on Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, Risk Assessment and Management, First Aid, Food Hygiene, Care Planning, Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults, Child Protection, Diversity, Data Protection and Information Management, Lone working, Mental Health training, Substance Abuse, Reporting and Recording, Post–Qualifying Social Work, Anger Management, Coaching, Supervisor and Supervisee training and Level 3 Diploma in Social Care. Most internal training is delivered by staff in the Learning and Development Service which reduces the cost of buying in expertise. In addition training and facilities are offered to other organisations in the voluntary sector. This has been useful for smaller voluntary organisations who do not have the resources or facilities to provide their own staff development.

In addition to internal training the Practice Development Service co-ordinates and supports training for staff outside Extern. This can be attendance at singular events or conferences as well as graduate and postgraduate education.

The excellence of the services delivered by the Practice Development Unit has been acknowledged through its accreditation in the Investors in People award, success in the University of Ulster Placement Provider of the Year Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Work Education and recognition as the largest provider of approved social work student placements, outside of Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Trusts.

Extern in Northern Ireland
Company Registration No: NI 16083
Registered Charity Number: XN 48714
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern in the Republic of Ireland
Company Registration No: 383201
Registered Charity Number: CHY15770
Tel: +353 (0) 1 563 9402
Extern Group
Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC103226
Company No. NI 618684
Charity Number: NI00263
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern Supporting Communities
Company No. NI 637561
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333