Agenda item

Recruitment and Retention.


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which presented provided an overview of the Department’s recruitment and retention activity, current position and future objectives for the service. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion, the following points were raised:


      i.         The Department continued to face increased competition with other authorities for qualified social workers, both those at the start of their career and those with experience. Members noted that recruitment and retention within social work continued to be increasingly challenging with the greater prevalence of agency opportunities alongside the existing complexity of child protection work. Members suggested that negative public and media perceptions and low morale in the sector could have led to a decrease in those choosing a career in social work. It was also suggested that tuition fees could place a barrier for studying to become a social worker and a member proposed that the Department should raise this issue with the Government.


     ii.         In response to a question regarding routes into social work outside of the traditional degree route, the Director explained that there were other ways in which people could change careers to become a Social Worker. The Social Worker Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship, which would take around three years, had been undertaken by staff from elsewhere within the service and the first cohort had completed the course. Another option available was the Step up to Social Work programme, which was an intensive 14-month full-time programme for those who want to become a social worker but did not have a degree in social work. The Director explained that a number of staff, who had a degree in another field, had joined from other frontline services. These staff members would be trained within the service to gain hands on experience. A Member suggested that these opportunities could be shared more widely by members and the Director agreed to provide members with details of all options available for entering a career in social work.


    iii.         In response to concern regarding internationally recruited social workers having relevant knowledge on UK social work practice and legislation, the Director assured members that thorough checks were always carried out by the Department to ensure that the necessary knowledge was in place. A support package had been developed to cover the initial three months of the programme which would teach legislative requirements of UK social work practice. Newly qualified staff would work alongside a delivery mentor and work with a reduced number of cases, together with additional supervision and training days. The programme was assessed nationally and the Department had received good feedback on its delivery.


   iv.         Exit interviews would continue to be conducted when staff were leaving the service, to either within or outside of the organisation, in an attempt to understand their reasons for leaving. The results of the interviews were shared with the senior management team so that issues could be addressed and so that themes could be identified in order to create an action plan for improvement. Exit interviews had indicated that staff were largely positive about the Council as an employer. Some staff had indicated that they had left to move to a higher paid role, but it was noted that the Department would not support an approach for offering high rates of pay seen at some local authorities. A large proportion of staff had left to move into the agency market which was an issue being experienced nationally due to rates of pay and flexibility being offered by agencies. Some staff had indicated that they had left due to workload pressures. Members noted the Department had introduced a process of monthly reporting on workloads.


     v.         A member asked for clarity regarding the Early Career Framework (ECF) which would be proposed to replace the Assessed Year in Practice. However, the Director explained that it was uncertain how the framework would be delivered as it was part of a national consultation, Stable Homes, Built on Love, which was focused on addressing the challenges Local Authorities were facing in the recruitment and retention of social workers. It was anticipated that ECF would offer additional investments in supporting social workers and to grow their expertise. The Director attended national forums which focussed on the issue and agreed to update members at a future meeting, once the outcome of the consultation was known.


   vi.         Members noted that although the service continued to operate with a relatively high number of agency staff and had a number of vacancies across teams. Members were assured that the Department would continue to ensure that all agency staff had a mentor in place.


  vii.         The Lead Member for Children and Families highlighted that despite the challenges with, and perceptions regarding, social work, there were many staff who had made a life choice to enter the vocation and were passionate about supporting and working with children.




a)    That the overview of the Department’s recruitment and retention activity, current position, and future objective for the service, be noted.


b)    That the Director of Children and Family Services be requested to provide Members of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee with details of the Step up to Social Work programme, the Social Work Apprenticeship, and the Social Work Graduate Training scheme.


c)    That the Director of Children and Family Services be requested to provide Member of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee with an update on the outcome of the national consultation Stable Homes, Built on Love, at a future meeting of the Committee.


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