Community Care‘s research shows a marked increase in vacancies compared with the most recent data collected by the Local Government Association.
From 2002 to 2006 the vacancy rate for children’s social workers fell from 12.6% to 9.5%, but our findings show a vacancy rate of 13.2%. Vacancies for adults’ social workers climbed from 9.2% to 9.4%, but in our survey it now stands at 12.2%.
Our results also show far less use of agency and temporary staff – 8.4% for adult social workers and 8.2% for those working with children. The last LGA survey showed that in 2006 there were 16.4% for adults’ and 33.9% for children’s services.
As many councils count their agency staff as occupying vacant posts, the actual vacancy rate in England may be far higher.
There are differences in methodology between the two surveys. The LGA collects its data with strict definitions of vacant posts, agency staff and temporary workers. Where possible, Community Care’s data has defined a vacant post as one without a permanent member of staff in it. Unison is currently compiling vacancy statistics for the whole of the UK.
Vic Citarella, director of social work consultancy CPEA who also advises the LGA on adult workforce training strategy, said that changes in the workforce since the last survey in 2006 could account for the rapid rise in vacant adult posts. “The change in job roles has been an issue with adults for a good 12 to 18 months since Putting People First. That may be beginning to impact now as local authorities start to do those job redesigns, he said.
“Pre-dating that, the new social work degree is now providing a steady flow of the social workers [to bring down vacancy rates]. There’s a lag in time of three, five, ten years to see major change on the ground.”