Some Welsh councils fear they may struggle to attract new staff and retain existing ones if they move to a more collaborative approach to pay and conditions, the National Children and Adult Services conference heard today.
Social work leaders are trying to introduce a national approach to recruitment and pay rather than councils using the traditional policy of offering short-term financial incentives to attract staff.
Councillor Paul Cockeram from Newport told a Social Services Improvement Agency session on collaborative working that his council was struggling to attract new recruits as it couldn’t compete with incentives offered by neighbouring authorities.
He said: “Some neighbouring councils offer social workers a payment of £2000 for staying two years in the job. We can’t do that.”
He added that the council was trying to keep pay at levels recommended by last year’s Garthwaite Report, endorsed by the Association of Directors of Social Work Wales, but that he feared others aren’t.
Wendy Fitzgerald, executive member for social care at Swansea Council, said it had been forced to recruit four overseas social workers recently as existing staff had been poached.
“We’re one of the more successful authorities particularly in children’s services but some of our staff have moved to other councils for increased pay offers,” she added.
But Tony Garthwaite, workforce lead for ADSS Wales, said initial signs suggest greater collaboration between councils on the issue is beginning to reduce the range of pay grades.
He added: “Some movement is healthy and inevitable and we can all benefit from it as it can refresh an organisation. But it has got out of control. We want to get to a point where movement is natural and not driven by pay.”
One way ADSS is trying to stabilise recruitment and retention is by developing its own recruitment agency while talks are still ongoing over agreeing national pay grades.
The Social Services Improvement Agency also announced it is close to agreeing with five councils plans for an 18-month trial in new ways of commissioning and delivering children’s services.