Council In Cash Bid To Attract Social Workers

A council whose social services department is the subject of “serious concerns” is considering £2,000 “golden hellos” to tempt experienced social workers to join.

In May, Swansea Council’s social services department was criticised for not properly following up child abuse allegations concerning baby Aaron Gilbert, who was later brutally murdered. Then the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales expressed serious concerns over the city’s family services.

They say the council is having problems meeting statutory targets regarding vulnerable children and is taking too long to review new cases. A report which will be discussed by Swansea Council’s ruling cabinet tomorrow suggests payments of up to £2,000 to tempt experienced staff into frontline roles.

The report says, “At the centre of our difficulties is our ability to recruit and retain social work staff of sufficient quality and experience. Currently out of an establishment of 67 social work qualified staff and frontline managers in our assessment and case management team we have 14 vacancies (21%).

“There are also five social workers absent for maternity leaves, disciplinaries or other processes and staff with over two or three years’ experience are in a minority.” The report suggests giving a £2,000 one-off payment to social work staff joining the council with at least 30 months’ experience.

For those with over 18 months’ experience £1,500 is suggested and £1,000 for those with less than 18 months’ experience. Last year, Swansea was shocked by the death of 18-month-old Aaron Gilbert, said by neighbours in the city’s Townhill district to have resembled “The Elephant Man” because of bumps and bruises.

A relative phoned the council to express concern and all they did was send a letter to Aaron’s mother Rebecca Lewis and it went to the wrong address. Soon after, Aaron was swung into a wall by his mother’s boyfriend Andrew Lloyd and died of head injuries.

Aaron’s 21-year-old mother was jailed for six years after being one of the first people in the UK to be convicted of familial homicide for failing to protect her son. Her heavy-drinking, drug-taking boyfriend Lloyd, 23, was jailed for 24 years for murdering the child.

Nearly every local authority in Wales is experiencing moderate or even severe difficulty in recruiting social workers, according to the Care Council for Wales. In a survey it found 84% of Welsh councils were having difficulties recruiting and retaining frontline social workers.

The council’s report, The Social Care Workforce in Wales, Themes and Trends, identifies stress as the number one reason social workers give up work.

The report gave four main reasons why councils are losing social workers:

  • The stressful nature of the job
  • Heavy workloads
  • Low pay, and
  • “Being taken for granted”

The report to the council’s cabinet adds, “The inexperience of social work staff is a material factor in our difficulty in meeting our service expectations and targets. Over the last few years social workers with experience have been lost to expanding services such as inspection services, voluntary agencies, other local councils and to other teams within child and family services perceived to have less demanding customers or workloads.”