Hampshire council is likely to approve proposals today to recruit 70 additional social workers and support staff across its children’s services, to ease the pressure on its existing teams.
Earlier this month, council leader Ken Thornber proposed investing an extra £6.5m in Hampshire’s social care budgets over the next two years, comprising £2.5m to create five new children’s social work teams and £4m to support the council’s planned transition to a new housing programme for older people.
As part of the investment in children’s services, the council will recruit additional support staff, social workers, assistant team managers and team managers, as well as family support staff and court support officers, if the budget is approved today.
When asked whether Hampshire would be open to recruiting newly qualified social workers, Thornber replied: “Our recruitment process will be a careful one. I understand the desires and fears of newly qualified social workers and we will look for merit rather than necessarily length of service. But of course the experienced social worker brings to the table that experience. I think it will be a mixture. “
Thornber explained the decision to recruit more children’s social workers had stemmed largely from Ofsted concerns about high caseloads at the council.
In 2010, Ofsted said Hampshire’s children’s services were performing “excellently”, but it added: “Areas for development include the high caseloads of some social workers, which mean that timely assessment and service provision are not provided for all children and young people.”
Thornber said the council had monitored social worker caseloads and concluded that it could afford to grow the service. Hampshire has already achieved savings of £100m over the last two years.
“We realised we weren’t likely to reduce the number of children in care to below 1,000,” said Thornber. “We now have an extra 100 or more children in our care since Baby P and we’re expecting quite a growth in birth rates. Even though our average rate of children in care is lower than the national average, we’re experiencing increased demand.”