How to keep the best staff?

Wrexham Council’s Susan Evans tells Derren Hayes about the dilemmas she faces as a manager of a children and family support team

“One of the biggest tensions is balancing the volume of work with the need to maintain high standards and achieve better outcomes. While we cannot control the amount of cases coming to us we can manage allocation more efficiently. When looking at the allocation of work, there has been a focus on making best use of resources by avoiding ‘gap filling’ and allocating cases
according to the strengths and expertise of individual workers.”

Evans, who trained as a social worker after working overseas, firstly as a volunteer in Holland and then a crisis counsellor in South Africa, says social workers and family support workers struggle to find time for everything, particularly paperwork.

“It is very time-consuming and soul-destroying having to input the same information on an array of forms. We are told that the integrated children system may well help solve this. Understandably, social workers will need to see more solid evidence before feeling confident in the new system.”

When it comes to recruitment, training and retaining staff, Wrexham is doing well – the authority funds social workers to undertake practice teacher and PQ1 and PQ2 awards and for supervising students – but Evans says more still needs to be done to reward high-performing staff.

“Progress has been made, but the recruitment and retention of social work staff, as with other authorities, continues to be problematic and the council needs to stem the flow of good people to agencies and other occupations.

“One possibility would be to create more senior social work posts at operational level, thus rewarding workers for their increasing knowledge, expertise and contribution to the overall performance of the authority. All our plans for improved service delivery rely on having a great team in place and we have to find creative ways of rewarding staff who consistently go the extra mile,” she adds.

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