Councils’ ability to recruit and retain high-quality social workers is one of the biggest risks to the future delivery of children’s services, senior leaders have said.
Managers and leaders in children’s services were concerned about recruiting and retaining staff over the next three years, according to a research study about the state of children’s services in England, backed by the Department for Education.
The survey of up to 91 local authorities in England also found a third worried about social worker practice “becoming or continuing to be variable”.
Senior leaders were asked to pick three main risks to children’s services over the next three years. The top three concerns were financial pressures (89%), and an inability to recruit (57%) and retain (51%) high quality social workers.
At the time the survey was carried out in September and October last year, 42% of authorities were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ confident about having enough social workers to meet demand over the following 12 months.
“On balance, [local authorities] were confident about the short-term future of their social care workforce, but a notable minority did have some concerns over whether they would have sufficient staff in the future,” the report said.
The findings were from the first wave of research commissioned by the Department for Education designed to provide “a clear and up-to-date understanding of the key issues facing children’s services, and of local authorities’ implementation of policy related to children’s services”.
Children’s minister Robert Goodwill, said the government has introduced new legislation and plans that will “further strengthen protection for the most vulnerable children”.
“Councils increased spending on children’s social care to nearly £7 billion last year and we are empowering councils to develop new and better ways of delivering these services. Alongside this, we are supporting the recruitment and training of social workers so they have the skills they need for this important job, investing over £750 million in bursaries and training programmes,” Goodwill said.