Options for tackling Wiltshire Council’s social worker recruitment and retention crisis will be discussed at the local authority’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday 22 July.
The meeting will examine the findings of a council report that flagged up the urgent need to improve the recruitment of experienced social workers and managers in safeguarding and multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) services. The report recommends a market supplement be paid to social workers in a bid to attract and retain more experienced practitioners.
A separate report published by the Policy Exchange last year found that the supply of social workers will not meet demand for almost a decade, yet there are more social work students enrolling than ever. More than a quarter of newly qualified social workers in England were unemployed in 2011 and the number of new social workers are rising year on year.
The problem for councils like Wiltshire is not recruiting new social workers, but recruiting experienced and skilled social workers to work in safeguarding teams that deal with the most vulnerable in their community.
The council’s report says that even after a four month long advertising campaign “there are still in excess of 30 agency workers in senior practitioner and manager roles in the safeguarding and MASH teams in children’s services”.
As well as looking to ensure their pay is competitive enough to secure “the right calibre of experienced candidates”, the report outlines other recruitment and retention initiatives that have been rolled out in Wiltshire. These include improving the professional development programme for both newly qualified and experienced social workers.
Despite these efforts the report concludes that the council’s “position in relation to pay is not competitive for more experienced social workers and manager roles, therefore to do nothing in relation to pay is not a viable option”.
The report recommends a 10% supplement should be paid to level three and four social workers and a supplement of 15% paid to assistant team managers and team managers.