Caring Services’ Wider Horizons Due To Lack Of Social Workers

WITH a lack of experienced social workers available, Swansea Council took the decision to look further afield.

While that normally means searching the rest of Wales and then across the Severn Bridge into England, the council decided to look even further, with the search spreading to Germany.

Six months on, the council has said its Europe-wide social worker recruitment drive is continuing to boost care for the city’s vulnerable youngsters.

The recruitment drive is part of an action plan, developed to respond to issues highlighted by a review of the service by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) at the end of last year.

Many of the concerns raised by inspectors had come about because of a shortage of experienced social workers — a problem affecting councils across the UK.

Swansea set about seeking qualified and experienced social workers from Europe, as well as attracting promising newly- qualified recruits locally and encouraging people who had the left the profession to consider returning.

The result was that the service was boosted by 16 new social workers, who are now vowing to stick with the city’s services to develop care for young people and their families.

This means that the service is less reliant on agency staff and benefiting from experience and new skills of people wanting to make a permanent contribution.

Dylan Thomas famously described Swansea as the “graveyard of ambition”, because once people arrive in the city, they never want to leave.

That is proving to be true, as not only are social workers continuing to bring their drive and skills to local services, but they are also vowing to stay.

One of the six qualified and experienced social workers from Germany is 37-year-old Martina Wolter, from Kiel on the Baltic coast. She had been a social worker in her home country for 13 years, working with children and teenagers.

She wanted to come to Britain to work because there were not as many opportunities for career progression in social work in Germany.

She said: “I knew I needed to experience something new, Swansea has lived up to my expectations.

“I really like Swansea, it is a perfect sized city, and I like the people and what the service is trying to do for them.

“I have been made to feel part of a team here. I feel wanted and supported. This is a very positive place. No-one is dwelling on the past — they are getting on with protecting children and making changes needed to make that happen better.

“They have accepted my input about the ways things are sometimes done differently in Germany.

“The only thing that has disappointed me so far about Swansea has been the weather, but the work, the team, the beach and the mountains mean I am happy to stay. I have no thoughts of leaving.”

Among the more local recruits is Adele Parry, aged 39, who qualified as a social worker in 1994 but then went on to work for the Probation Service in Cardiff and Swansea.

She said: “I enjoyed the work I was doing, but being a social worker with Swansea Council’s social services offered me a chance to make a difference to children’s lives before they entered the legal system.

“The experience has been a very positive one. The team has been very helpful and I had good supervision. My future is definitely here.”

Newly-qualified recruit Danielle Williams, from Newport, is a Swansea University graduate who decided Swansea child and family services team was for her during a final placement as part of her degree.

She said: “I have always known that I wanted to work with children and make a difference. I used to see those NSPCC adverts and think ‘I want to stop that happening too’. When I did my placement with the child and family services team, I knew that was where I wanted to be, that I could make a difference.

“I love it here. It is a very supportive team and the work is really interesting. I would encourage other people to consider if they could do social work too.

Principal officer and safeguarding children’s co-ordinator Steve Hayes said: “We are delighted to have been able to recruit staff with calibre and experience, both locally and from Europe.

“They are helping us deal with some of the vacancy issues we had and we are significantly less dependent on agency staff as a result of their recruitment.

“Their dedication and determination to stay in Swansea is an exciting prospect in terms of developing the service we offer to children and their families.”