A code of ethics on the recruitment of social workers from overseas is being developed to stop authorities and agencies in England actively hunting skilled staff from developing countries.
The code, which is being produced by the Improvement and Development Agency with backing from the Department of Health, could be launched at the National Children and Adults’ Services Conference in Brighton in October.
Almost 4,900 social workers from overseas sought registration to work in England from April 2004 to April 2006. All but 89 were approved by the General Social Care Council.
The biggest exporter of social workers to England in this period was South Africa, with 938 applications, followed by Australia, the USA and India.
Ian Wilson, social services director at Tower Hamlets Council in east London, said it was unethical for councils to recruit social workers from developing countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe (253 applications) because they badly needed staff.
When Tower Hamlets faced staff shortages in children’s services last year, it looked instead to India, where universities are producing an excess of qualified staff for the domestic sector.
It brought in 16 social workers from India in April 2005 and only one has since left, for personal rather than professional reasons.
Wilson said: “Although the basics [of the job] are exactly the same, the detail isn’t. They have not been taught things like British child care legislation. You have to plan carefully and induct people you recruit.”
International Federation of Social Workers president David N Jones said he supported the right of social workers to pursue their careers, but that work was needed to stop authorities actively recruiting in developing countries.
A DH spokesperson said the code was “still at its early stages” but it was clear there had been an increase in the number of people born overseas working in social care here.
Similar concerns about recruitment in the health service prompted the DH to produce a code of conduct for NHS employers in 2001.
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