LGA: Child social work is councils’ biggest recruitment headache

Nearly two-thirds of councils in England were struggling to recruit children’s social workers before news of the Baby P case broke, the Local Government Association said today.

An LGA survey of 185 authorities, including district councils, between July and September also found that 39% reported difficulties in retaining children’s social workers.

The results showed that councils found it more difficult to both recruit and retain children’s social workers than any other group of employees, with the figures for adult social work standing at 36% for recruitment and 24% for retention.

The poll was carried out in conjunction with Local Government Employers and the Improvement and Development Agency.

Baby P could exacerbate situation

The LGA said that the problem had persisted despite increases in social care staff pay and that it was “deeply worried” that the recent Baby P case would exacerbate the situation. The organisation called for increased investment to provide better on-the-job support and training.

LGA chair Margaret Eaton warned there was a danger that “serious gaps” could be left in the child protection safety net if potential employees were scared off entering the profession.

She said: “So soon after the death of Baby P, these finding show that there are real difficulties for councils in recruiting and retaining high calibre child social worker staff. If lessons are to be learned, then we must look to the future and recruit and retain staff so that they can protect the most vulnerable children in society.”

Unison 10-point plan

Unison has also called for the government to tackle recruitment and retention problems in children’s social care, in a ten-point plan submitted to Lord Laming’s inquiry into the child protection system, commissioned by the government following the Baby P case.

The union said that there needed to be “urgent action” to fill staff vacancies and review staffing levels in all social work teams.

The plan also called for all child protection investigation visits to be conducted by two practitioners and for social workers to have at least two years’ post-qualifying experience before being allocated child protection cases.

Unstable and violent

Helga Pile, national officer for social care, said: “Social workers are routinely exposed to unstable and potentially violent situations where they are expected to make complex assessments and analyse risk, working alone and facing considerable hostility. Having two people would help instil confidence and improve staff safety.”

Related articles

Expert guide to Baby P case

LGA develops five-point plan to improve child protection

Social Work Taskforce: Sector leaders urge pay and training boost

Social worker recruitment still difficult despite planning

Expert guide to the children’s and youth people’s social care workforce


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