Workforce development at early stage, says report

Social care training body Topss has released a new report on
workforce planning. The Report on the Social Work Workforce for
Topss England, was commissioned “to consider the current
numbers training and forecast numbers for the future need.”
Utilising data from previous surveys and the returned
questionnaires sent to TOPSS regional committees, the report
reaches three main conclusions.

First, “the demand for qualified social work staff is
growing faster than supply”. While the number of vacant posts
has fallen from 10 per cent to 8.8 per cent, staff turnover has
actually increased to 12.4 per cent. Children and family workers
posts are worse affected: 46 per cent of local authorities reported
difficulties in recruiting in this field while 30 per cent of
authorities experienced difficulties in retaining this group.

Second, the cost of living and tight labour market in parts of
the country, especially London and the South East, make the problem
worse and “there is some evidence that terms and conditions
of employment have an impact on workforce recruitment and
retention”. Third, the social work workforce profile is

In addition to data previously published from surveys the TOPSS
report also draws on its regional committees.

It says: “Returns from the Topss England Regional
Committees indicate that development of workforce planning is in an
early phase in some regions, but there is evidence that in other
areas this is improving rapidly through the support of Learning and
Skills Councils which have an interest in mapping workforce trends
in all employment sectors.”

It notes that the current Department of Health social work
recruitment campaign has been “a success and exceeded
targets”. In the year following its launch in October 2001,
there were 21,132 hits to the website and 22,571 telephone calls.
The report calls for a regional structure for the campaign to be
set up to support the national campaign, as was done for NHS

The report notes that between one-fifth and one-quarter of those
contacting the hotline were from the business sector, indicating
they wished to pursue a “more fulfilling” career.

In addition, new social work degree courses will begin in
September 2003.

Finally, the TOPSS report highlights the crucial role played by
practice placements in ensuring students finish their courses
successfully and in providing a student with their first post.

“The returns from the Topss England regional committees
have highlighted the increasing use of the strategy of recruiting
students direct from their final practice placement, with DipSW
students on placement being permitted to apply for posts as
internal applicants.“

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