Cheaper to recruit social workers from Australia than pay agency fees, says council

National shortages and high agency fees have prompted Wokingham Council to look to Australia for experienced social workers

Perth, Western Australia. Photo: Pascal Subtil / Flickr

Wokingham Council has resorted to hiring social workers in Australia due to high agency fees and problems attracting experienced staff in England.

In February the authority launched a month-long recruitment campaign in Western Australia that has led to the appointment of five children’s social workers.

Working with recruitment agency Hays, the council targeted the Australian state because its legal and educational framework for social work is similar to that of England.

In council papers, Wokingham’s human resources business partner Gillian Ward revealed that while it was more expensive to recruit in Australia, the extra cost would soon be outweighed by the savings made on agency fees.

Relocated expenses

Wokingham offered Australian social workers a two- to five-year contract and relocation expenses equal to those on offer to staff recruited within the UK. The social workers will need to repay their relocation expenses if they do not complete their contract.

Hays did the initial interviews in Australia and successful candidates then had Skype interviews with council representatives.

Ward told councillors that the Australian recruitment campaign was part of a wider response to high turnover in children’s social work and the difficulty of recruiting experienced social workers, which was harming the quality of children’s social work in the borough.

Trusting relationships

At 2 March 2016, approximately 26% of children’s social worker posts in Wokingham were unfilled.

Wokingham’s most recent Ofsted inspection, published January 2016, found its children’s services “requires improvements”.

Ofsted said the council had cut social worker turnover from 33% in 2013/14 to 14% in March 2015 but its recruitment challenges have hurt the progression of care plans and the ability of looked-after children to form trusting relationships with social workers.

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7 Responses to Cheaper to recruit social workers from Australia than pay agency fees, says council

  1. Amzora DU May 16, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    OZ recruiting from UK Social Workers and vice versa, times are tough

  2. Cristina May 16, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    How about recruiting social workers as independant instead?

  3. Tom Hughes May 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    How about paying them the money the job demands? Also Wokingham isn’t nicest place in the world to live and those Australian social workers will only be tempted because they are not acquainted with what a dive it is

  4. Stuart May 16, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

    Wow, great!! That means the Aussies have five vacancies. I’m off to get the application forms…

  5. Stephanie May 18, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    I’m in Western Australia on a WHV and there are NO jobs here, which I only found out when I got here. A recruitment consultant I spoke to said that they were recruiting to England because of this. Ironically I was an agency worker for the past year and a half too with no trouble getting a job…

    • Anita Singh May 19, 2016 at 1:07 am #

      Just go on the community care website and look, right now there are jobs in Victoria, Australia – plenty of them too!

  6. Esmeralda June 7, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

    It’s great knowing that jobs are being filled where it is needed. Although it’s important to be realistic about how long Aussie Sw will consider staying in Wokingham. Instead Sw that are already in the UK should be treated with the respect they deserve and made to feel like the professionals they’re in order to encourage them to stay. As professionals we’re always striving to be better, work harder and place the children we work with at the top of our lists. Who else is doing that for Sw?.. Feel free to comment