Social Work Task Force: Workforce planning

PROBLEM: Social work depart­ments have high vacancy rates and find it difficult to retain staff

RECOMMENDATION: Commitment to develop a new system for forecasting levels of supply and demand for social workers

The taskforce was faced with a growing body of evidence ­highlighting recruitment and retention difficulties in social work departments in England.

In its interim report in July, it concluded that the lack of a robust system for measuring the movement of social workers through their career and their supply from training bodies had hampered workforce planning.

The report identified high vacancy rates: 9.5% of frontline posts in children and families teams were unfilled, with 9.6% annual turnover; in adult teams, the figures were 9.4% and 7.8% respectively. The vacancy rate for teachers in England was 0.7%.

The taskforce said this hampered those departments’ ability to deliver quality services.

Concerns about the mismatch of supply and demand were also raised when figures from the General Social Care Council showed that, of the 6,000 newly-qualified social workers who registered in 2007, 23% were described as unemployed.

The GSCC called for a model of workforce supply and demand to ensure that the right number of social workers are trained in the right regions.

Skills for Care chief executive Andrea Rowe said the UK-wide alliance of skills councils, Skills for Care and Development, had mechanisms in place to carry out this function in children’s and adults’ social work.

In its inquiry into children’s social work training, MPs on the children, schools and families select committee recommended that employers play a bigger role in influencing the provision of places on social work courses as part of a national strategy.

The committee also concluded there was no satisfactory means for modelling the demographics and deprivation of local populations which would be necessary to plan workforce development. It recommended the establishment of a Social Work Development Agency to develop and oversee such a system.

The new model will help councils plan for the social work capacity they need, ensuring teams are not overstretched and able to deliver an effective service.

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