Recruitment crisis worst in the South East and children’s services

Nearly half of local authorities experience difficulties in
recruiting children and families field social workers, according to
the latest social services workforce survey.

This figure rises to two-thirds of authorities reporting extreme
difficulties in the east Midlands and the South East.

The report looks at recruitment and retention, training and
qualifications, and pay in social services departments.

Vic Citarella, consultant adviser to the Local Government
Association on workforce planning and training, said the Social
Services Workforce Survey 2001
gave managers “better tools to
develop a strategic and practical approach to tackling the human
resource management difficulties facing the sector”.

The survey found an average vacancy rate of 9.4 per cent last
September. Children and families field social workers had an even
higher vacancy rate of 11.3 per cent. The three areas with highest
turnover rates were occupational therapist posts, home care workers
and children’s residential care workers.

Recruitment and retention problems have become so severe that,
between April and September last year, more than £13m was
spent by social services departments in England advertising their
vacant posts.

Almost two-thirds of departments now advertise vacancies on the
internet, as well as in local and national press, and specialist
journals. One-third hold job fairs. One in 10 authorities are
trying to recruit from abroad in an attempt to ease

More than three-quarters of respondents reported using long-term
agency staff – costing social services an estimated £74m
between April and September last year.

Only 2 per cent of social services departments’ budgets for
employees was spent on training last year – just £97m out of

But the government’s drive towards joint working seems to be
working. Ninety-two per cent of social services departments
operated joint teams with the NHS. The services most likely to have
existing joint teams were those working with mental health service
users, people with learning difficulties and older people.

However, just under a third indicated they had long-term plans to
transfer employees as part of setting up a care trust.

Social Services Workforce Survey 2001 from

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