Social work employment agencies have joined forces to put pressure on councils to raise standards in locum hiring, with the formal launch this week of a new trade association.
The Association of Social Work Employment Businesses (Asweb) was formed last May in reaction to the widespread use by councils of managed vendor services (MVS) – large, non-specialist recruitment agencies contracted to supply a range of temporary staff, including social workers.
The pressure group believes that standards have slipped since many councils have opted for the generic recruitment model and it is officially launching now with a constitution to improve on-going training and support for locums.
Andrew Thorne, Asweb chair and managing director of agency Backstop, said it was now ‘virtually impossible’ for specialist social work recruitment agencies to survive without providing staff through managed vendor contracts.
Link broken between managers and agencies
But agencies were concerned that social care was being put at risk because the link between social work managers and agencies had been broken.
The former social worker explained: “Because we are now legally not allowed to talk directly to social workers under our managed vendor contracts we have to guess what kind of locums managers want and the risk is that sometimes this can mean that the wrong kind of social worker is being hired. Asweb is trying to protect them against that risk.”
He added that these concerns had so far not been heeded by the MVSs. “We have launched to put pressure on managed vendor services because they haven’t listened to the agencies. We’re saying their model of recruitment is not suitable for social work. They don’t give a monkeys about quality and they don’t understand what social work is.”
Asweb has met with some of the largest MVSs to call for direct contact with social work managers.
The group has contacted all the specialist recruitment agencies and has got some of the largest names on board, including Bluecare and Reed Social Care, with 14 members so far. Under its constitution members must commit to providing ongoing professional development and placement support where necessary to its temps and being audited every year.