A Developing Social Care Workforce

{mosimage}David Comley, Director of Social Work Services with Glasgow City Council, talks recruitment, retention and workforce development.

David Comley’s career began in the West Midlands, working as a Housing Management Graduate Trainee for Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. In 1980 he moved to Glasgow City Council and the post of District Housing Manager and rose through the ranks to become Director of Social Work Services in 2002.

Care Appointments caught up with David to get his views on a range of issues…

David, what are your department’s priorities this year in terms of recruitment and workforce development?

“One of the big priorities for the department is to complete our recruitment drive for Practice Team Leaders. 320 Practice Team Leader posts were created as part of the Fieldwork Review two years ago and now just 40 posts remain to be filled. We are looking for Qualified Social Workers to make the step up to PTL level.

“Fully establishing our new assessment process will go a long way towards making this happen. It’s an approach which has been successfully piloted and will now be available to all QSWs. Running hand-in-hand with this assessment strategy is the implementation of Personal Development Plans for all social work staff. Again these have been successfully piloted and we want to roll this out across the whole department. But we believe the PDPs will also be an enormous help with the appraisal of skills performance and training needs of QSWs when they put themselves forward to be PTLs. They’ll prepare a portfolio of their work for evaluation by an internal panel.

“It is a formal process, but it is one that will allow people a fair chance to demonstrate their experience and performance level. We want to show people that they have the potential to become practice team leaders and that they therefore deserve to move to the highest point of the QSW salary scale. Improvements in leadership are something that we also want to work on further up the management structure. The need to develop leadership skills was clearly identified in the 21st Century Social Work Review and we are now able to provide appropriate training in this area.

“Management posts within the third tier of our structure have two spinal column points, of which the higher is reserved for people who have obtained the appropriate qualification. As part of their continuous professional development, all first line managers must now undertake to do the requisite courses. {mospagebreak}

“Glasgow Social Work Service is facing major challenges at the moment with the development of Community Health and Care Partnerships (CHCPs) high on the agenda. It is imperative that our management staff are fully equipped to deal with that challenge.

“The advent of the Community Health and Care Partnerships has also thrown up a number of issues surrounding Organisational Development. The CHCPs involve the creation of integrated health and social care services, putting together staff from different professional backgrounds with different conditions of service and organisational cultures. This will require significant OD input.

“Finally we are continuing to do the groundwork that will allow us to meet the Scottish Social Services Council requirements for residential/day care staff. From July this year all other residential child care workers start the process and will work towards securing their HNC Social Care/SVQ.”

What do you believe to be the key(s) to retaining social work and social care staff?

“One of the keys to retaining staff in the job is the job itself. Our in-house surveys tell us that staff value the interesting and challenging work as well as the close working relationships they develop with colleagues.

“There is also an appreciation of the relationships staff have with line managers and people seem to respond to the feedback they receive from their line managers as a matter of course. But we want to continue to improve communication within the department so that staff are aware of the possibilities ahead of them.

“There are always opportunities for job rotation, whether that is moving between training, policy posts or positions within the area teams. Career development and progression are vital components in retaining staff. So assisting them to gain further formal qualifications, whether that is in areas such as child protection or mental health, is essential. Likewise, encouraging staff to undertake new pieces of work for personal development and the widening of their practice portfolio is just as important.”{mospagebreak}

What do you believe are the specific challenges and rewards of practising in an urban setting such as Glasgow?

“Glasgow provides one of the most challenging, and therefore most stimulating, environments for social work in Scotland, if not the UK. Deprivation is deeply felt in many areas of the city and there is little doubt this connects to Glasgow having such high rates of drug and alcohol misuse and looked after and accommodated children, for example.

“Tackling this deprivation lies at the heart of the social renewal agenda of Councillor Stephen Purcell, the Leader of the Council, and effective social work is instrumental to the delivery of that agenda. Of course, this means a major challenge for Glasgow’s social workers but it also means there are tremendous opportunities as well.

“Through integrating services with health in the new Community Health and Care Partnerships we aim to make significant inroads into the problems of health inequalities and social exclusion that Glasgow faces.”

In terms of recruiting new blood into the sector’s workforce, what more do you believe could be done on a national level and what special plans do Glasgow have in this direction?

“The development of the para professional social care worker role in Glasgow has been a major boost to recruiting new blood. This has now been recommended Scotland-wide by the 21st Century Review.”

Bu do you believe that the career path from social care into social work is clearly enough defined? Could local authorities be converting more social care staff into qualified social workers through schemes such as APEL, for instance?

“It certainly is well defined in Glasgow. There is a clear line that allows people to advance from the job of social care worker to qualified social worker and on to practice team leader. Along this path there are opportunities to gain qualifications.

“A social care worker who secures their HNC/SVQ gains eligibility for QSW training and, in turn, there are opportunities for QSW’s to become mental health officers, practice teachers or child protection specialists, as they progress to PTLs. All of these steps are linked to salary progression.”