For Northamptonshire County Council, having a stable and able workforce is key to ensuring the very best support for children and families across the county.
In a sector that can face challenges in recruiting and retaining high-quality, experienced social workers, we are working hard to ensure that our children’s social care staff are valued and rewarded for the difficult job they do.
Here in Northamptonshire, we are lucky to have a dedicated team of social workers and practice managers, 48% of whom have been working with us for more than seven years.
These staff have been with us through the past two years when we embarked upon our children’s services improvement programme following a critical Ofsted inspection, and their efforts have helped us to achieve huge improvements in the way we safeguard children.
Pay and rewards
We have recognised their role in our improvement journey by awarding existing employees in difficult to recruit children’s social care roles with a pay increment at a time when Northamptonshire County Council, along with authorities across the country, was unable to give staff pay increases this year.
This enabled our committed staff to move up their pay grade band and was the latest in a number of recruitment and retention initiatives implemented over the last 18 months.
Our pay and rewards package across our social worker, practice manager, and team manager roles is under regular review to ensure it remains competitive against other councils, plus we’ve reduced caseloads in response to feedback from the team.
Having a say
That communication with staff has been instrumental in helping us to better meet the needs of our valued social workers.
Through a series of focus groups and workshops, we heard that the reason our social workers do this difficult job is because they are committed to making a difference in children’s lives. But we also learned that they wanted the opportunity to have a say in how we deliver those support services.
Going forwards, managers are now appraised on their levels of employee engagement and team meetings have become more frequent. There are also separate opportunities for social workers to get together to talk through difficult cases.
We’ve introduced a staff recognition scheme where people can be nominated by their peers or by families they support and high-performers are rewarded with a high street voucher and a day’s annual leave.
Director of children, families and education Alex Hopkins says: “All of us in children’s services have been on a difficult but rewarding journey over the last two years since we began our improvement programme. It is down to the dedication and hard work of our committed social care staff that we have been able to make the changes and improvement we have seen.
“It is only right that those staff – some of whom have been with us for many, many years – are rewarded for their commitment, which is why we’ve awarded pay increments, amended the sickness policy and revised the whole way we communicate with our teams.
“Our vulnerable families need consistency and they want to feel that they are receiving the very best possible support from us. That can only be achieved through a stable and able workforce – people that work hard and stay with the council as our children’s service evolve.
“I am incredibly proud of our children’s social care team and their commitment to ensuring that the needs of children and families across Northamptonshire remain at the very heart of all we do.”
To find out more about joining Northamptonshire County Council’s social care team, visit www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/socialcarejobs.