Social services consultant Keith Fletcher
feels that the Welsh task force on recruitment was a missed
A year ago the National Assembly for Wales set
up the task and finish group to address the recruitment and
retention crisis in social care. At the time I was part of a team
developing an implementation strategy to address the elements of
The creation of the group produced inevitable
“planning blight”. Local authorities in Wales quite reasonably put
their own (and our) initiatives on hold. They wanted to be part of
a national strategy and to benefit from any resources that might
come their way as a result. If the group’s report led to a national
strategy the delay would be a price worth paying.
In spite of the growing crisis on the ground
there were good reasons to believe that the task and finish group
would deliver the goods. There was little disagreement about the
nature of the problem and the terms of reference were crystal
clear: identify the problem, improve the public image, explore
strategic partnerships, develop recruitment and retention policies,
and process the reform of social work training.
There had been some useful groundwork already.
People Need People published jointly by the assembly, the
Department of Health and the Audit Commission, October 2000, is an
excellent framework on which to construct a recruitment and
retention strategy for social care.
Last August the task and finish group
published its report on the web. It was a grave disappointment.
There is no vision and no urgency. Difficulties are not faced, some
are scarcely even addressed. Many of its recommendations are
anodyne and there is not even a tentative price tag. There is, in
short, nothing for the assembly to accept or reject. The service
providers and commissioners and the thousands of people in Wales
who depend on an increasingly groaning social care structure are in
much the same position as they were a year ago. The problem has
continued to grow.
Good work has continued in the Care Council
for Wales and some of the authorities. But the capacity to make
best use of the analysis, the options it generates and the costs it
implies is limited by the absence of a national strategy.
The assembly has acknowledged the problem and
needs now to clarify how it will resource solutions. As to what the
solutions will be, ad hoc local or regional strategic partnerships
need to convene quickly to identify their own means. The wait for a
national strategy is over.