Social worker retention crisis deepens

Social workers in charge of vulnerable children are leaving council care departments at a steeper rate than previously thought, a survey has revealed.

The study from the Local Government Assocation reveals that, of councils suffering care staff retention problems, six out of ten are having problems with child care workers. The figure has increased from four in ten a year ago.

Council leaders believe the backlash from Peter Connolly’s death – known at the time as Baby P – has lead to the intensifying of the problem.

The situation has also worsened despite a third of councils (34%) experiencing recruitment and retention problems boosting salaries for children’s social workers by offering market supplements.

Other council initiatives to improve recruitment and retention rates include:

    * A training academy set up by Hertfordshire County Council, offering reduced case-loads and specialist training to 30 newly qualified social workers each year
    * A free return-to-work course for former social workers being offered by West Sussex County Council, backed up by a dedicated website promoting social work careers.
    * The creation of more than 30 new children’s social work posts by Liverpool City Council, backed up by two programmes to support trainees, which attracted more than 120 applicants.

Cllr Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People board, said children’s social workers had been ‘put through the mill’.

‘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,’ she said.

‘Councils have a job to do 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.

‘People who care about the safety of children should understand that social workers are the solution, not the problem. During the past 12 months too many social workers have clearly decided the strain of this difficult work is more than they can handle. The commitment of those who have remained must not be underestimated.’