Buckinghamshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to urge more authorities to join a regional scheme to limit agency pay following a report warning of a “perfect storm” of recruitment and retention issues in children’s social care.
The report, by the council’s Children’s Social Care & Learning Select Committee, warned that a shortage of experienced staff is undermining the ability to deliver quality children’s social work in the county and the cost of filling posts with agency workers is increasing financial pressure on the authority.
The committee blamed the shortage of children’s social workers on the negative perception of the profession, the stress of the job and work-life balance issues.
It said the council’s involvement in the South East Memorandum of Cooperation, a regional agreement that is seeking to clampdown on agency worker pay and discourage social workers from going into locum work, was positive.
However, the report voiced concern that not all authorities in the South East of England had signed up, warning that “for the agreement to be fully effective across the region these organisations need to be engaged”.
Lack of male social workers
The report also urged the council to do more to recruit male social workers, citing the lack of men in children’s social care since it would improve “effective matching of social workers to clients”.
In a meeting held yesterday, Buckinghamshire’s cabinet endorsed four of the five recommendations made by the committee including:
– More systematic analysis of social worker exit interviews
– Addressing the underrepresentation of men in the workforce
– Taking a lead in encouraging more councils to join the South East Memorandum of Cooperation, which seeks to clamp down on agency worker pay in the region
However, the cabinet rejected the committee’s call for the council to consider adopting the Hillingdon Hub model, which sees ‘social worker pods’ set up in schools.
The committee argued that having social workers in schools would provide opportunities for social work students to gain experience, allow some social care issues to be addressed on site and encourage more children to think of a career in social work.
But councillor Lin Hazell, Buckinghamshire’s lead member for children’s services, said the council had looked at the Hillingdon Hub model and found that students did not feel it prepared them for a social work career and was more of benefit to schools than to the profession.
Manager turnover up
The committee’s report said that turnover of social workers in the county had halved from 25% to 12.5% between 2014 and 2015 but the number of vacancies remained stubborn. In December 2015 there were 79 vacant posts in children’s social care in Buckinghamshire, barely changed from the 81 in April 2015.
“What is less positive,” it added, “is the big increase in social work team manager turnover in the same period; this places in jeopardy efforts to create higher quality management oversight.”
Councillor Valerie Letheren, the chair of the committee, told the cabinet that the proportion of men in Buckinghamshire children’s social care was around 10%.