Lukewarm reception for strategy

For months, staff who work with children have waited patiently
for the children’s workforce strategy, believing it to be the
missing piece of the Every Child Matters jigsaw.

Some sections of the children’s workforce will be satisfied that
the document, which was finally published last week by the
Department for Education and Skills, has completed the picture. But
those in social care are likely to feel there is a large hole in
the government’s plans.

Fundamental questions about how to recruit and retain more
children’s social workers, which the paper acknowledges are
“critical to the success of Every Child Matters”, are

Instead, it promises that a social work project group including
junior minister for children and families Lord Filkin and community
care minister Stephen Ladyman will examine these issues and report
in the summer.

A dozen sub-groups have been established as part of the project,
which is looking at social work generally, including one looking at
children’s residential homes.

But the failure to address recruitment and retention problems
within this week’s paper will be seen as a serious omission.

For National Children’s Bureau chief executive Paul Ennals the
document, which proposes a single qualifications framework so staff
can move more easily from job to job across the sector, has focused
on improving the attractiveness of work with children.

But he says: “The [social care] section overall was weak. It is not
a balanced document in the sense that the stuff on early years was
a lot stronger.”

Caroline Abrahams, head of policy at children’s charity NCH agrees,
arguing that people would have expected to see pay and status
highlighted, adding that the sector “would be wise to take up the
invitation in the document to tell the government how to address
recruitment and retention”.

But although crucial questions may remain, there are positives in
the document too. One example is the inclusion of leadership, an
issue that came to the fore during Lord Laming’s inquiry into the
death of Victoria Climbie.

As well as low pay and status, social workers increasingly list
poor supervision and management, alongside too little training as
among the main problems at work.

Under the proposed local workforce strategies that every council
will be expected to draw up, training opportunities to meet
particular needs identified by local safeguarding children boards
must be addressed.

Despite the gaps in the strategy, Ennals is keen to emphasise that
it is only a consultation. “It is a very complicated issue so the
government wanted to make [this document] genuinely green,” he

There is also a sense of relief that, despite its delays, it was
released before the general election. There were fears that its
significance may have been lost if it had been released

“Hats off for getting it out before the election,” says Abrahams.
“Now we have to make sure we are responsive and come back hard with
some positive ideas.”

Core Values
The Children’s Workforce Development Council will
create a single qualifications framework, which will build on
transferable core and specialist units of knowledge, so workers can
move around jobs in the children’s sector.

Every children’s services director will, along with the lead
member, lead the development of a local strategy. This will include
programmes to support career progression and methods of workforce
development in the private voluntary and community sector.

An early years’ professional will be in post in all 3,500 planned
children’s centres by 2010 and every daycare setting by

The voluntary and community sector will receive £3m from
2006-8 to develop its infrastructure.

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