The number of newly qualified social workers in adults’ services has risen by more than a quarter in the past two years, figures show.
There was an increase of 12% in 2015-16, on top of a 14% rise the previous year. The figures were collected by Skills for Care and published in the second annual report from Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults.
Romeo told Community Care the figures could reflect a rise in the number of adult social work posts available nationally.
Figures published in January showed the number of social work posts filled in adult social services departments rose from 16,100 in 2014 to 16,500 in 2015, an increase of 2.5%.
However, 12% of all adult social worker posts were unfilled in 2015. This is a sharp rise on previous years when vacancy rates were between 7.2% and 8%.
‘Shift in demand’
Romeo said: “The shift in demand resulting from the Care Act and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards has meant there is a need for more qualified social workers in adult social care, so more social workers qualifying off courses have had the opportunity to take up posts.
“The particular demographic of the social work workforce could also be a factor – a lot of people have been around for quite a long time and are now moving towards retirement.”
Romeo added that some employers had reported that they felt the quality of newly qualified social workers was better than previous years.
She said: “Employers are much more confident about the quality of NQSWs coming into their local authority. There’s still not a consistent level of quality everywhere and that is something we need to think about going forward, but it is improving and confidence is increasing.”
‘Challenge and enthusiasm’
Rob Mitchell, principal social worker for adults’ at Calderdale Council, said his local authority had seen the value of investing in newly qualified social workers.
He said: “Within my council we have ring-fenced posts for NQSWs for several years now. We have found that NQSWs are knowledgeable, skilled and value driven in their approach and their application of the Mental Capacity Act and human rights is often exceptional.
“All NQSWs are supported through their ASYE, have a reduced and protected caseload, receive mentorship from an experienced social worker and receive extensive support through HEI providers to build their portfolio and reflect on the impact they have as social workers.
“Investing in NQSWs has helped our service become closer to the people we serve – they’ve brought challenge, enthusiasm and a huge desire for social justice back into the profession.”
Community Care has previously reported concerns among local authorities that problems recruiting social workers had hampered Care Act progress. The most pressing concerns surrounded experienced social workers trained as best interests assessor (BIAs) or approved mental health professional roles (AMHP).