Pay divide requires action

The debate about the recruitment crisis in social work has
tended to focus on the frontline, where low pay, large caseloads,
and poor image have deterred people from coming into the
profession. It is this aspect of the crisis that Community
and the Local Government Association are helping to
tackle with our You Can Make a Difference campaign, designed to
raise awareness of the effective work done by social care

But now a fresh set of symptoms has been detected which suggest
that a new strain of the crisis virus may have begun to affect
social services. These symptoms are described in results from a
survey carried out by Essex Council, which indicates that a brain
drain has started from social services into the health service.

Out of the initial 25 replies received by Essex from other
social services departments, 17 said that their health service
counterparts paid better salaries for equivalent posts, while nine
said that they were losing staff to health in consequence. The
general feeling is that the health service is better off, better
paid, better resourced and less stressful, particularly for
managers, than social services.

These perceptions will surprise health service managers who may
feel that they are quite as much in need of a stress cure as their
local authority colleagues. But, if the findings are at all
representative of the country as a whole, the Essex survey has
produced the first evidence of an imbalance that neither the
government nor local authorities will be able to ignore.

Social services need to recruit and retain good managers to give
a strong lead in implementing the government’s change agenda.
Health minister John Hutton has promised a series of local
initiatives later in the year to boost recruitment in social
services. These must include measures to ensure pay parity for
staff on both sides of the fence.

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