Social workers drafted in from US to tackle Birmingham shortage

Social workers from the US are being recruited by Birmingham Council children’s services because of a shortage of local candidates.

A lack of experienced social workers is causing concern at the council, which currently has 100 vacancies out of a total of 430 social work posts.

Between March and August 23 staff left a variety of posts and the council’s vulnerable children overview and scrutiny committee is looking into the reasons behind the departures.

Committee chair Keith Barton said the vacancy rate reflected the national shortage of social workers and said the council had taken “every possible step” to recruit from all over the West Midlands.

Barton said the council was recruiting 14 US social workers and 23 UK graduate social workers to fill some of the vacancies.

“We have taken the majority of graduates from the universities in the region but there is a significant lack of experienced social workers,” he said.

The committee has raised concerns over the large numbers of new and inexperienced frontline social workers facing “extremely complex and demanding casework which is beyond their skills and abilities”.

Les Lawrence, chair of the children and young people board at the Local Government Association and Birmingham’s cabinet member for children’s services, said he believed social workers could be leaving the council for better pay in neighbouring authorities.

“Birmingham is a city with multiple problems and social workers face inevitably high caseloads,” he added.

Birmingham is the UK’s largest local authority and currently has more than 2,000 children in its care system. 

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