Stress Blamed For Failure To Recruit Social Workers

One in 10 social worker jobs in Cambridgeshire is vacant. Low wages and the stress of the job were blamed for a 10.7 per cent vacancy rate. Asked by Coun Mandy Smith, why the rate was so high, Coun Shona Johnstone, Cambridgshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, replied: “Would you like to be a social worker?”

Gordon Jeyes, deputy chief executive children and young people’s services, said: “Social work, particularly involving children, has been painted rather bleakly.

“Many work in the voluntary sector, which means county council social work becomes more stressful. It becomes the social work of last resort, dealing with dysfunctional families, those affected by drugs and alcohol. If there is a child protection tragedy they are pilloried in the Press. It is not the best recruitment basis.”

Social Services were heavily criticised following the death of Victoria Climbie in London. The eight-year-old died from abuse and neglect while in the care of her aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.

Victoria was seen by dozens of social workers, nurses, doctors and police officers before she died, but all failed to spot the abuse as she was slowly tortured to death.

In Cambridgeshire, agency staff are filling the gap and councillors want more to be done to recruit and retain social workers.

Adrian Loades, director of planning and development, office of children and young people’s services, said: “The number of people training to be social workers has fallen and, as a result, the demand on social workers is increasing. Demand and supply is out of kilter. A number of authorities pay more for staff. There has been a drift of staff across borders to other counties offering more attractive rates. We are seeing some come back.”

Coun Gaynor Griffiths, Lib Dem, said: “We need a ball and chain on them. We train them and put the resources in and they clear off somewhere else. They need to stay for three years.”