Norfolk council is in talks to develop a new academy to allow it to take on and support more newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) while it continues efforts to recruit experienced, permanent staff.
The authority is under pressure to quickly recruit permanent social workers after Ofsted rated its safeguarding and looked after children services as inadequate and concerns were raised about high caseloads.
In the aftermath of the inspections, Norfolk’s cabinet agreed to fund the creation of 66 additional roles in frontline social care teams.
The council launched a two-pronged approach, recruiting 55 agency social workers and four agency team managers to help clear backlogs and reduce caseloads in the short term, and running a recruitment campaign for experienced, permanent social workers.
But a report under consideration by Norfolk’s children’s services overview and scrutiny panel today reveals that, so far, only 12 social workers and one team manager have been recruited into permanent posts – and the council is struggling to fill the rest.
The recruitment campaign has attracted a lot of interest from NQSWs even though it is targeted at those with more experience, said interim director of children’s services, Sheila Lock, in the report. Approximately 40 NQSWs have enquired about the roles.
Yet, with 44 NQSWs already in the system, Lock said the department could not support on any more at this time: “The additional supervision and reduced caseloads they require is not sustainable.”
In an attempt to solve this dilemma, Lock said Norfolk was in active discussions with the University of East Anglia (UEA) to develop an “academy approach” to support the recruitment of more NQSWs.
This would see Norfolk follow in the footsteps of authorities such as Croydon and Herefordshire, where academies offer large groups of NQSWs structured support from more experienced members of staff.
“This approach, along with those already employed by Norfolk council, will guarantee us a large number of experienced workers once they pass their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE),” said Lock.
Norfolk’s ASYE programme was recently praised by Skills for Care for providing effective workload management and high quality supervision.