Witt cuts 2017 intake for Bachelor of Social Work course, citing low staffing levels

The course at Witt was due to begin later this month.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

The course at Witt was due to begin later this month.

Months after making tutors on its "overstaffed" Bachelor of Social Work course redundant, Witt has scrapped this year's first year intake because it doesn't have enough staff to run the course.

Two of the course's four tutors took redundancy following a course review late last year and finished on January 9, while a third tutor also took redundancy in late January.

On Friday a joint statement from Witt and Wintec, who ran the programme together, said they had decided not to offer a year one intake in New Plymouth later this month.

"Due to recent staff vacancies at Witt which arose from voluntary redundancies, Wintec will support Witt to deliver year two and three of the programme, and the year one intake will not be offered in 2017," the statement said.

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The 13 students who had applied for the first year intake would be offered fee free social work study at Wintec in Hamilton, or if they are unable to leave the region, enrolment with the Open Polytechnic, or an alternative programme at Witt, subject to entry criteria and space, which will be fee free for the first year.

David Younger, the former Head of Department of Social Services, said he was angry and disappointed at the polytech's handling of the programme he helped create.

Younger helped launch the diploma of Social Work in 2000 and developed it into a three year degree and later a four year degree, before he stepped down as Head of Department and Programme Coordinator two years ago while he continued to work as a tutor.

The programme was put through a review late last year which found it was overstaffed and the four tutors were asked if they wanted to take voluntary severance.

"My understanding was 'yep, there's some development issues with the degree in terms of moving to the four year degree but things were kind of ok'," Younger said.

Younger said he had been considering reducing the number of hours he was working or resigning before the report came out, and decided to take up the offer.

He received an email from Witt chief executive Barbara George on December 23 telling him his redundancy request had been accepted.

"I was shocked to hear that another tutor had also been accepted," he said.

"I didn't think one of us should go but I thought if someone has to go I'll go, two didn't make any sense to me whatsoever."

A third tutor returned to work in late January but then asked they could still get redundancy, which was also approved, he said.

George said they had needed to reduce the staffing in the department and worked through a process of calling for voluntary redundancies, which the three staff put their hand up for.

When asked if Witt was happy for all three staff to leave at the same time, George replied that she couldn't answer that.

"It's more complex than that and it would start to breach employee confidentiality for me to say any more," she said.

Jan Duke, Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) acting chief executive and registrar, said it was confident Witt and Wintec could work together to ensure an appropriate staff to student ratio was maintained. 

"Wintec already has SWRB recognition to offer this degree and Witt is a recognised site for delivery of this programme," she said.

"The SWRB is confident that Wintec and Witt have arrangements in hand to ensure appropriate staffing."

 - Stuff

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