More councils experience social work recruitment problems

The number of councils struggling to recruit and retain children’s social workers has risen by 50 per cent in the past year, a Local Government Association survey (LGA) has revealed.

The research found that six out 10 councils are now experiencing children’s social work recruitment and retention problems, compared with four out of 10 12 months ago.

This is despite the fact that more than a third of councils suffering such difficulties have boosted salaries for children’s social workers.

The LGA warned that the rise could be a result of the public backlash against social workers sparked by the death of Baby P.

Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said children’s social workers “have been put through the mill” since the death of Baby P.

She said: “The vilification of children’s social workers has increased the risk of harm to some children by opening up gaps in the safety net, which works so hard to protect them. During the past 12 months too many social workers have clearly decided the strain of this difficult work is more than they can handle.”

Ritchie added that councils must work to make sure social workers feel valued and supported.

“Different programmes to recruit and develop children’s social workers are being provided by town halls across the country depending on what their local areas need,” she said.

Initiatives include a training academy set up by Hertfordshire County Council, offering reduced caseloads and specialist training to 30 newly qualified social workers each year, and a free return-to-work course for former social workers being offered by West Sussex County Council.

A recent recruitment campaign by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) attracted 30,000 enquiries from people wanting to become children’s social workers. Keith Brumfitt, director of strategy at CWDC, said: “The response to the Be the Difference campaign has been staggering and we are delighted that so many excellent candidates from a variety of backgrounds are keen to become social workers.”