Councils are fast increasing spending on training social workers, but vacancy rates are refusing to fall and recruitment and
retention difficulties are increasing, a major survey has found.
The social services workforce survey, published today (Thursday) by the Local Government Association, found a vacancy rate of 10.9 per cent for front-line social workers as of 30 September 2005, the same as in 2004 and down from 11 per cent in 2002.
Vacancy rates rose for children’s social workers from 11.4 per cent to 11.8 per cent in 2005, while the proportion of authorities reporting difficulties recruiting and retaining social workers rose across children’s and adult services.
Yet councils increased spending by almost 70 per cent in 2005, to £36.4m, on secondments and bursaries for staff to do the social work degree or the former diploma in social work, following another large rise in 2004.
Workforce consultant Vic Citarella, who helped produce the report, said: “The message is that investment in training and workforce development is something that has to be sustained over time.”
More than 90 per cent of authorities said they were training or planned to train social work assistants to become social workers as a way of tackling shortages. However, authorities rated the success of such initiatives as only 1.9 out of five.
More than three-quarters of authorities cited a lack of suitably qualified candidates as a reason for recruitment and retention difficulties in children’s social work, with 66 per cent claiming the same in adult service areas.
And more than half said “the nature of the work” was a key recruitment and retention barrier in children’s social work while 41 per cent cited pay, as did 37 per cent for adult social work.
Yet pay rose by 6.2 per cent for children’s social workers to an average of £29,892 a year, and by 5.1 per cent for adult social workers and care managers to £29,315.
Social care workforce findings
● Overall vacancy rate fell from 11.1 per cent to 10.5 per cent from 2004 to 2005.
● Rates ranged from 6.4 per cent in the South West to 14.8 per cent in London, though they fell from 20.4 per cent in 2004 in the capital.
● Turnover fell from 13.1 per cent to 11.6 per cent nationally.
● Spending on recruitment advertising fell from £19m from April to September 2004 to £15.7m in the same period in 2005.
● Local Authority Social Care Workforce Survey 2005
Contact the author