Socnow shows councils are making headway in recruiting in north west

More than 700 attended the North West Social Care Event  –
Socnow  – in Manchester Town Hall on 3 June. This was double
the number that attended the first and second events in 2001 and
2002. Queues trailed outside and the workshops were heavily
oversubscribed, as social work students and prospective employees
came to see and hear what the region has to offer those thinking of
a career in social work or social care.

Twenty local authorities from the north west came together to
make the event a great success, backed by a range of voluntary
organisations and staff agencies. The day centred around four
workshops. Three were familiar from previous years: Getting over
the recruitment hurdle; A day in the life of a social worker; and
Post-qualifying opportunities in social work.

 A new one for this year – What services do young people
want? – offered those at the event an opportunity to hear
directly from young people what were their concerns and needs were
and how this could help shape the services they want.

The organisations behind Socnow prefer to work as a team
promoting the virtues of the region, trying to import social
workers into the North West rather than competing with each other
for a limited pool of workers.

The aim of the day is not to sign up people to specific jobs
there and then but to give them information about the range of jobs
on offer and even more to keep the North West at the forefront of
their minds. According to Caroline Marsh, deputy director or
Manchester social services, and one of the organisers of the event:
“It is difficult to measure the immediate success of the
event. It is part of an overall strategy in which Socnow raises the
profile of the region and allows us to keep in contact with
prospective employees. Actual recruitment may come several years
later as they remember us and what we have to offer.”

This approach is shared by Adele Boyle, personnel manager for
adult and children care services in Rochdale: “We see Socnow
as an opportunity to promote Rochdale and its advantages as an
employer. While we do not expect to recruit directly from the event
itself, it provides an excellent opportunity for interested people
to meet prospective employers.”

Manchester did recruit directly last year according to Marsh but
this is not generally true for the whole region.  Marsh is aware
that recruitment difficulties in social care have not eased much
over the past year or so. Clearly there is no miracle or overnight
cure for solving recruitment difficulties in social work and social

The government-backed initiative to increase the pool of social
workers through increasing the numbers studying for the new social
work degree is only beginning to bear fruit and it will take some
time to see a substantial increase in the numbers entering the job

Meanwhile, the familiar vacancy blackspots remain – in
children and families services most acutely.

But the 20 or so North west local authorities are determined to
resist the self-defeating approach to recruitment which entails
seeking to “poach” staff from other authorities by
means of a raft of financial inducements. Rather they want to
stress the advantages of living and working in the area. For
example, Adele Boyle points out in regard to Rochdale: “The
advantages of the local area is that it is close to motorway
network, has reasonable house prices, offers flexible working,
attractive retention schemes and new initiatives in child care

These inducements are primarily targeted at social workers. But
when it comes to social care jobs such as home care workers or
domiciliary staff, Rochdale like other authorities has to attract
local people. And here, paradoxically, an area like Rochdale is a
victim of the success of the local council in its urban
regeneration schemes. This means the job market remains tight with
new retail outlets drawing in staff that in other circumstances may
have considered a job in social care.

Still, the number attending Socnow 2004 prove that many people
are actively considering a career in social care and the organisers
aim to keep in touch with those who registered so that the region
and its attractions are never far from the thoughts of those
thinking of a career move or new career.

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