Hammersmith & Fulham Council unveils lead social worker role

Hammersmith and Fulham Council will launch a principal social worker post in children’s services tomorrow to enable experienced practitioners to remain on the frontline.

The west London council said the role – part of a broader restructure – would increase stability and supervision within social work teams and improve outcomes for young people.

It is offering highly experienced social workers with “the ability to take on the most difficult and complex cases” increased status and salaries ranging from £39,700 to £42,200.

70% of time on case work and supervision

The first 10 principal social workers start work this week, but the council intends to recruit 24 in total. Each practitioner will lead a team of social workers, spending 70% of their time working with children and families and supporting less experienced colleagues. The remaining 30% will be devoted to service development and policy implementation.

Andy Ferguson, assistant director of complex needs at Hammersmith and Fulham, said the role would strengthen the continuity of the workforce and reduce the frequent handover of cases, “where social workers stay for one year and then leave”. An official consultation found a change of social worker was “the most upsetting thing” for young service users in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Ferguson said the role had been funded by savings in training, induction and agency costs.

Cuts in turnover and vacancies

The council’s children’s department has reduced turnover from 30% to 13% and vacancies from 28% to 5% among social workers through measures including introducing degree training bursaries for unqualified recruits.

Ferguson said: “One key role for the principal social worker will be with new staff they will have time to mentor them and encourage them, and hopefully more people will stay on.”

Earlier this month the Children’s Workforce Development Council confirmed it was examining a possible advanced social worker’s position on a national basis.

A spokesperson said the CWDC would consider the Hammersmith and Fulham model in its research.

Other frontline reforms

Hackney Council last year created a social work consultant role, to lead small units of professionals working with children and families, and with responsibility for all cases handled by the unit. The salary, at £42,200, is similar to the Hammersmith position, and Hackney has so far recruited 24 out of an expected 48 posts.

• Have your say on advanced practitioner roles

More information

Building Brighter Futures – Department for Children, Schools and Families children’s workforce plan

Children’s Workforce Development Council information on newly-qualified social worker scheme

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