‘Welsh social work task group must consider 2005 review’

The task group set up to examine the future of social work in Wales must take account of the findings of a key review into the profession which reported in 2005, according to its author.

Independent consultant and former Bridgend Council director of social services Tony Garthwaite welcomed the creation of the task group, which was announced last week by the Welsh assembly government’s deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas.

One of the issues it is expected to consider is the case for the introduction of a national pay structure for social work in Wales, which was proposed by Garthwaite’s 2005 report, Social Work: A Profession to Value.

High vacancy and turnover

The report, produced by an Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru-led multi-agency group, found high vacancy, turnover and sickness rates and that competition between councils for staff was leading to pay inconsistencies and harming recruitment and retention.

Its 41 recommendations included national minimum standards for working conditions and raising social worker pay across Wales to the level of the best, with consistency maintained thereafter.

Garthwaite warned that a national pay structure would not be easy to implement, based on previous attempts to act on his review’s recommendations.

‘Extreme recruitment pressure’

“Some local authorities voluntarily took pay rates and conditions according to our guidelines but in areas with extreme recruitment pressures rates were put up,” he said.

Garthwaite added that while there had been “pockets of improvement” since the review, including a drop in vacancy rates from about 15% to 10%, there was still an overall shortage of social workers in Wales. “I hope the task group will take into account the issues raised in the 2005 review because many are still current,” he added.

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