Bromley Council is offering social workers bonuses to improve recruitment and retention as referrals rise and budgets fall.
All social workers and senior practitioners at the south London borough will receive a £1,500 annual retention bonus. Those in high-pressure safeguarding and referral and assessment teams will receive a £2,000 supplement on top.
Social workers will also receive three extra days of continuing professional development and managers will be sent on forensic supervision courses.
Kamini Rambellas, the council’s outgoing head of children’s social care, said the number of referrals to the department had doubled over the past year and the number of children going on child protection plans had risen by 85%.
Although the council had already agreed to fund an extra 10 social care posts, a recent Ofsted inspection and the council’s own evaluation have identified that, if rates of growth in referrals continue, even more will be needed.
“Our biggest challenge is recruiting experienced social workers,” Rambellas said. “We are covering things at the moment with locums but it’s not a stable workforce.”
She said the council had decided that referral and assessment social workers should have no more than 20-25 cases on the go while those in safeguarding and looked-after children should have between 15 and 20. She added they were currently adjusting caseloads.
“When we get to the right level of caseloads we will need to look at the level of resource and whether it’s enough,” she said.
Bromley has already hired social workers from the US and another trip was planned in August to investigate further recruitment from the US, Canada and the Caribbean.
The council has asked its multi-agency common assessment framework (CAF) team to take on all referrals that do not need a social care assessment. “We’ve asked the CAF team to step up and step down on those cases of children in need who do not quite meet social care thresholds.”