Exclusive: Mentoring could improve recruitment crisis in London

Mentoring schemes for social workers could go
some way towards improving retention rates in London, according to
key industry figures in the social care sector, writes
Natasha Salari

Giving social workers a voice and providing
them with an informal support network through a mentor or
“buddy” was one of the key recommendations to come out
of Care in the Capital Week, organised by Community Care to help
spread good recruitment and retention practice throughout

Speaking at a symposium to conclude the week,
delegates proposed “some sort of mentoring or buddy scheme
that wasn’t quite as frightening as a team meeting”.
“It wouldn’t be target driven and it would be a gentler
way of finding out what’s going on and of supporting
people,” said Barbara Kissman, a senior manager at the
National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations.

Leading social care figures from a range of
key organisations also discussed making changes to the career paths
of social workers, which tend to lead only to managerial posts.

Ian Johnston, the director of the British
Association of Social Workers (BASW), said: “To get the best
out of social workers, maybe you need to get rid of all the
managers if the managers are not supporting them anyway. As people
build up skills and expertise they could become more of a mentor
than a manger.”

A report by the social care training body
Topss England, commissioned by Community Care, was the
focus of discussions at the symposium. Should I stay or should I
shows that the public sector is set to lose a high
proportion of social care staff over the next 10 years, as nearly
three in 10 members of the workforce are in their fifties.

Andrea Rowe, report author and chief executive
of Topss England, said: “Unfilled vacancies cause high stress
levels for those left managing the load. There’s a vicious
circle where the managers who should be planning the workforce
development are having to do the front-line work rather than having
the room to plan. That means you have a reactive rather than a
proactive workforce strategy.

“Social care needs to have competitive
rates of pay. But it’s not all about pay. It’s not the
attraction of something else that makes social care workers go.
It’s what we do to people or what is done to them within
their work that makes them go. It’s not rocket science.
It’s what we already know.

 “Stress, lack of autonomy, bureaucracy
and red tape are the biggest causes of stress. It’s not the
stress from the work it’s actually the stress from the
paperwork. We have heard it from teachers and police officers, and
now we are hearing it from social workers.”

 The workforce report also asks why employers
are still failing to recognise the importance of finding out why
their employees leave.

Speaking at the symposium, Pauline Moignard,
an independent consultant for the Association of Local Government,
announced that the organisation was looking at collating
information on exit data from social workers and probably care home
workers in all London boroughs.

 Key recommendations from the Care in the
Capital symposium:

Mentoring and buddy schemes for social workers.

Inductions and probationary periods for new staff.

Appraisals where staff actually feel they will be listened to.

to a computer and the internet for all social workers.

Experienced social workers without managerial qualities to support
others rather than manage them.

widespread use of flexi-time, job shares and transfers between
disciplines, without bureaucracy.

attractive benefits package, including health checks, access to
sports facilities and subsidised nursery places.

collation on push and pull factors in social care jobs and
benchmarking to find out acceptable levels of turnover.


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