Bristol needs more social workers

A recruitment drive has been launched in Bristol to boost the number of social workers for vulnerable children and families.

The city has a vacancy rate of about eight per cent, much better than the national average of 14 per cent.

But the workload in children’s social care, which was always heavy, has increased in the last two years in the wake of the Baby P tragedy in Haringey.

The number of cases referred to social services has risen in the city as well as elsewhere because of heightened public awareness and more stringent measures have been brought in following Lord Laming’s review of Baby P’s death.

There are some parts of Bristol where children’s social care teams are particularly stretched and the city council is keen to attract more men and people from minority ethnic backgrounds to the work.

Anne Farmer, who is in charge of recruitment, said: “It is important to reflect the communities we serve. We need to have a wide age range and have workers from different backgrounds. At the moment we have a high proportion of women, so we would like to recruit more men. For some families, a strong male role model can be a big help.”

Bristol has about 100 social workers in frontline child protection work and more than 100 more in other statutory roles, dealing with fostering, adoption, children in care and children and families with particular needs.

Ms Farmer, area services manager for east central Bristol, said she is always happy to talk to social workers interested in moving to the city and to those considering a return to the profession.

The Government has also stepped up its recruitment measures following the Baby P case. Children’s Secretary Ed Balls says he wants to raise the profile of social workers and give them the public recognition they deserve.

He said: “We are going to stand up for social workers but also give them the training, the support and sometimes the challenge they need.”

Ms Farmer said she welcomed the Government’s positive media campaign, which has for the first time included TV and radio adverts.

Bristol is at the forefront of a number of initiatives from the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) to attract and recruit more people to social work.

It is taking part in pilot schemes, including the Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW) programme and a graduate recruitment scheme. It also takes care to support people in the early stages of the profession and to help those who have been in it for some years to develop their careers.

Cabinet Councillor for children Clare Campion-Smith said: “Bristol has a very good record in recruiting and keeping social workers to work with children and families.

“Our vacancy rate is lower than the national average and agency staff are used in a very limited way.

“This new campaign will give a much-needed boost to raise the status of children’s social care and hopefully attract talented individuals to consider this interesting and challenging area of work as a career.”

One of the measures brought in by the Laming review is spot checks by Ofsted on child protection work, and Bristol fared well in the first of these in the autumn.

Inspectors found many strengths in the city’s children’s social care.

Mrs Campion-Smith added: “One of Bristol’s key strengths is the quality of its social workers and this is now recognised by Ofsted.”