More ‘buddies’ would help councils keep staff, say social care chiefs

Mentoring schemes for social workers could help improve
retention rates in London, according to key social care

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 in London.

At the closing symposium to the week, delegates proposed a
mentoring or buddy scheme.

Barbara Kissman, a senior manager at the National Council of
Voluntary Child Care Organisations, said:”It wouldn’t be
target-driven and it would be a gentler way of finding out what’s
going on and of supporting people.”

Delegates also discussed changing 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, 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 social workers build up skills and
expertise they could become more of a mentor than a manager.”

A report by social care training body Topss England, commissioned
by Community Care, was discussed at the symposium.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? shows that the public sector
is set to lose a large proportion of social care staff over the
next 10 years because 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
front-line work rather than having the time to plan.” She said this
meant social work organisations had a reactive rather than a
proactive workforce strategy.

She also said that, while social care needed competitive rates of
pay, there were other factors such as bureaucracy that were making
people leave social care. “Stress, lack of autonomy, bureaucracy
and red tape are the biggest causes of stress. It is not the stress
from the work, it is the stress from the paperwork. We have heard
it from teachers and police officers, and now we are hearing it
from social workers.”

The 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, a consultant for the
Association of London Government, announced that the organisation
was looking at collating information on exit data from social
workers and care home workers in all London boroughs.

Key proposals from symposium

  • Mentoring and buddy schemes for social workers.
  • Inductions for new staff.
  • Meaningful staff appraisals where staff feel they will be
    listened to.
  • Access to a computer and the internet for all social
  • Experienced social workers without managerial qualities to
    support others rather than manage them.
  • More use of flexitime, job shares and transfers between
    disciplines, without bureaucracy.
  • An attractive benefits package, including health checks, access
    to sports facilities and subsidised nursery places.
  • Data collation on push and pull factors in social care jobs and
    benchmarking to find out acceptable levels of turnover.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.