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
    care.

    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
    market.

    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
    services.”

    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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