Councils in Wales could set up their own recruitment agency as part of efforts by social services leaders to reduce the high turnover of social workers.
The Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru plans to attract social workers away from agencies. Studies are under way to assess whether councils could set up their own in-house agency and reduce the amounts they pay private agencies. ADSS Cymru also hopes to introduce a national pay and benefits system.
Although vacancy rates have fallen from 15 per cent to 12.6 per cent in the past year, the Care Council for Wales’ draft annual report shows that nearly a fifth of Wales’ 2,500 social workers moved jobs in 2005-6.
ADSS Cymru workforce committee chair Tony Garthwaite, author of last year’s Social Work in Wales: A Profession to Value report into pay and conditions, told a conference last week that it was vital to stabilise the jobs market. He said staff were moving jobs because councils that are short of staff outbid each other for social workers.
But Garthwaite said a third of councils had increased pay over the past year so that most now offered similar pay grades, with average starting salaries for newly qualified and senior social workers rising to 22,500 and £28,500 respectively.
Ian Woolwich, a member of the British Association of Social Workers Wales, backed the idea of a councilrun recruitment agency: “Social services need to be competitive with private sector [agencies] and offer the same pay and conditions,” he said.
Meanwhile, ADSS Cymru joint chair Joe Howsam has said the Welsh assembly government’s draft strategy for social services could cause problems.
The strategy says directors of social services should report directly to chief executives and be accountable to councillors and local cabinets. But children and adult social services are managed separately at four Welsh councils – Merthyr Tydfil, Flintshire, Wrexham and Carmarthenshire – and directors report to different heads of departments.
Howsam said: “The strategy will not accord with some of the structures in place in Wales.”
● Social Work in Wales: A Profession to Value
Tackling workforce problems
Last year’s Social Work in Wales report recommended:
● A strategic approach to recruitment and retention based on collaboration, not competition, between councils.
● An improvement in social workers’ pay.
● Better managerial and employer support for social workers.