Care services minister wants to plan social worker workforce

The government has commissioned national guidelines on workforce numbers for adult social work employers amid concerns about a mismatch between supply and demand across the country.

Care services minister Phil Hope has asked Skills for Care to produce a workforce planning model to help local authorities determine the number of social workers they need, and work with universities to ensure supply met demand.

Graduate unemployment

The announcement follows news that 23% of the approximately 6,000 graduates to register with the regulator in 2007-8 desribed themselves as unemployed, in the General Social Care Council’s annual report on social work education.

While the GSCC said this was likely to reflect the fact that some newly-qualified social workers were yet to find work, it urgently recommended a supply and demand model to ensure “the right number of social workers are being trained in the right regions”.

Figures obtained by the Conservative Party showed social work vacancies had risen by almost a third to 14% in English councils since 2005 with seven authorities reporting over 30%.

Varied picture

Eleni Ioannides, vice-chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ workforce development policy committee, said: “The picture varies dramatically across local areas, with some areas fully staffed, so [unemployment] may be a geographic issue rather than an issue with the candidate’s own skills or experience.”

However, poor-quality placements prompted several social work students to post messages on our CareSpace discussion forum this month expressing anxiety about finding jobs after graduating. Francesca felt she would have “virtually no chance” of success due to inappropriate placements.

GSCC chief executive Mike Wardle acknowledged there were concerns about the quality and availability of practice placements. He said the council was working with the government and other organisations to address these, with a view to securing greater collaboration between employers and universities.

The 23% unemployment figure is four times the national unemployment rate of 5.5% among graduates in all subjects, according to a November 2008 report by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit.

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