Social work shortages at ‘crisis point’, warns council leader 

Labour council head says reliance on agency staff is seeing costs spiral

Photo: Sowersby/Rex/Shutterstock

Social work shortages are at ‘crisis point’ and increasing reliance on agency staff is seeing costs spiralling, a council leader has warned.

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes told the National Children and Adult Services Conference that councils needed to be doing more to attract people into the profession.

Forbes told fellow local authority leaders: “Many talented people have left, or are leaving social work, and increased reliance on temporary workers is resulting in costs spiralling. We need to be encouraging people to take on social work as a viable career option. For those who have taken time out, encourage them back into the profession if we’re to tackle rising vacancy rates.”

Forbes, the leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, also criticised the government’s policy around dealing with performance issues in children’s services.

“Councils need power and resources to make a difference before a problem is created, rather than risking failure and being told at the end that the secretary of state is bringing in an independent trust,” he said.

“You can see real echoes of this approach in the parallel agenda of academisation [in schools], where we have the frankly ludicrous situation where local authorities are told they must improve services, even if the government removes their power to intervene, and the end result is academies making a profit with no local oversight, but lots of local blame [for] the local authority if they fail.”

Forbes also said local authorities had done their best to protect children’s services budgets over the past few years, but that wouldn’t prevent a predicted £1.9 billion shortfall between resources and need opening up between 2016 and 2020.

6 Responses to Social work shortages at ‘crisis point’, warns council leader 

  1. Pancho November 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    Looking after existing staff a bit better might help

    • Tom J November 4, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      Agreed. Plus hitting existing social workers over the head with KPMG accreditation tests is unlikely to help things.

  2. Jaden November 3, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    If there is a shortage of social workers why does the council insist on 1 years post qualification experience during recruitment? Taking on NQSW annually through an academy would ensure a constant and steady supply of staff. Unless of course there is a hidden benefit of using agency staff and the reason why some social Workers leave council employment but end up working for councils through agencies.

  3. julia abadi November 3, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

    Why aren’t the Social Workers contracted to the LA better valued? Even to the extent that we do not have tea and coffee provided. If the money better reflected what we do, people would stay, not because we are mercenary (if we were we would all work for an agency), but because we have bills to pay and quite frankly for the flack we take it is not surprising that so many are leaving the profession.

  4. The stig November 3, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    Poor pay, poor conditions, no reputable governing body, same old.

  5. Jay November 3, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    I fully agree will you Pancho that looking after existing staff would improve the situation. I also ageee that encouraging Social Workers back and supporting those who have left the profession and making the return easy for them. Also the newly qualified Social Workers need to be supported in post and in the completion of their training so they can develop their careers and make a difference in people’s lives.