40% of newly qualified staff slam £5m support scheme

More than 40% of participants in a pioneering £5m support scheme to reduce burnout among newly qualified social workers were unhappy with the programme, it has been revealed. Keith Brumfitt (pictured), of the Children's Workforce Development Council, described the figure as "higher than anyone would want".

More than 40% of participants in a pioneering £5m support scheme to reduce burnout among newly qualified social workers were unhappy with the programme, it has been revealed.

Many employers failed to deliver on promises to reduce NQSWs’ caseloads and one-third of practitioners were still shown to be suffering from stress.

The figures come from the evaluation of the first year of the Children’s Workforce Develop­ment Council programme for NQSWs in children’s services.

At the end of 2008-9, the year in which the programme was launched, 42% said they were dissatisfied and 58% said they were satisfied, while 22% of social workers had dropped out of the scheme.

The evaluation by King’s College, London, and the universities of Bristol and Salford revealed a further 40% said they had not received the required supervision, while one-third said they might leave to find another job. However, only 8% overall said they planned to leave the social work profession.

One participant described the CWDC’s scheme as “a complete shambles that deskilled social workers and added stress”.

But others felt the additional supervision had provided valuable opportunities to develop skills.

Keith Brumfitt, director of strategy at the CWDC, which, it was revealed last week, would lose its government funding, said the 42% dissatisfaction rate was “higher than we would want and higher than anybody would want”.

But he added: “This was the first year, and we have done a lot of work with employers to find out what caused the dissatisfaction and made changes. We will continue to address the issues that arose.”

Overall 87 local authorities and two voluntary sector organisations in England took part in the programme, supporting 1,100 NQSWs.

Key problems included unhappiness with the burden of bureaucracy, such as a requirement on NQSWs to produce portfolios of their work. Some practitioners, particularly those with master’s degrees, felt assessments were unchallenging.

High caseloads were seen as a major obstacle to implementing the programme by more than one-third of local co-ordinators. The NQSW programme was intended to provide a 10% cut in caseloads compared with the level of work given to more senior colleagues in the same organisation.

Half of the programme co-ordinators viewed constraints on their own time as a barrier, while the same proportion thought the poor quality of supervision available and the NQSWs’ lack of commitment were further obstacles.

Brumfitt added that, since the end of 2008-9, the CWDC had trained 1,000 supervisors and reduced the bureaucracy and paperwork, including the requirement for NQSWs to produce a portfolio.

“The NQSW programme is helping to retain people – it gives you a stronger sense of what it is you’re expected to do, and providing the clarity about roles is useful to how people feel about their work,” he said.

Jane Wonnacott, director of In-Trac Training and Consultancy, said the “enormous pressure” on local authorities to cope with rising referrals may have compromised their ability to provide high-quality support to NQSWs.

“Hopefully the Munro review will deliver a shift towards this approach and away from performance indicators. A lot of organisations have become quite naturally caught up in these, which makes the reflective practice model so much harder to implement,” she said.

Scale of dissatisfaction

● 42% of NQSWs said they were dissatisfied with the programme.

● 31% said they were likely to look for another job in the next year – but three-quarters of these expected to remain in children’s social work.

● 16% is the first year turnover rate of NQSWs, a similar figure to social workers in general.

● 33% of NQSWs scored above the recognised threshold for stress.

● 50% of NQSWs received supervision for 90 minutes every fortnight, on average.


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