Mixed views on workforce strategy

The Children’s Workforce Strategy was published this month
for consultation by the Department for Education and Skills. It
proposes a new qualifications framework, expansion of social work
assistants but does not address recruitment and retention.

The single qualifications framework for the children’s
workforce aims to give staff greater flexibility in moving around
the sector.

The qualifications will be built on transferable units of core
and specialist skills and knowledge. There will also be common
approaches to the accreditation of previous experience and

Directors of children’s services and lead members will be
required to lead the creation of integrated workforce strategies
that respond to local need. They must include:

• Programmes to support career progression.
• Induction training for all recruits on the common core of
 • Knowledge and training for development to support the
introduction of a lead professional role.

The government also plans to have an early year’s
professional in all of the 3,500 planned children’s centres
by 2010 and in every day setting by 2015.

Chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau Paul
Ennals who helped produce the strategy, said: “The
Children’s Workforce Strategy is a vital step in creating
joined-up services that meet the needs of children and families,
and ensuring the success of the government’s Every Child
Matters agenda.”

Child care charity the Daycare Trust welcomed the idea of a
single qualifications framework but added that the workforce
strategy, as it stands, is not ambitious enough in terms of child
care workers. “Whilst acknowledging that quality in the child
care workforce needs to be raised, it misses the opportunity to
present a bold vision for the future of the workforce, and provide
the means to achieve it,” said a spokesperson.

The strategy also proposes a social work project group including
junior minister for children and families Lord Filkin and community
care minister Stephen Ladyman to examine recruitment and retention

 A dozen sub-groups have been established which will look at
various parts of social work, including one looking at children’s
residential homes.

But the failure to address recruitment and retention problems in
the main document is seen as a serious omission.

Ennals said: “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
agreed. She said that people expected to see pay and status
highlighted and added that the sector “would be wise to take up the
invitation in the document to tell the government how to address
recruitment and retention”.

Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, said: “I’m glad that the [social work project]
group is meeting. We (BASW) are a bit disappointed that social care
doesn’t get the prominence we would like to see but we have
been a bit heartened by the Children’s Workforce Development

Johnston also warned that plans to remodel the workforce along
the lines of the teaching profession should not be used as a way of
replacing social workers or of dealing with the recruitment
problems in the profession.

The strategy proposes giving social workers more time to
“concentrate on the complex work that needs their skills,” and
cites the changes in schools including the increased work done by
classroom assistants as an example that may be followed.

Caroline Abrahams, director of public policy at children’s
charity NCH, said remodelling should be seen as “an opportunity not
a threat”. She said the policy could mean the recruitment of more
family support workers who would provide practical help to children
and families.

The Children’s Workforce Strategy consultation closes 22
July. Go to: www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/key-documents

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