Social work shortages are at ‘crisis point’ and increasing reliance on agency staff is seeing costs spiralling, a council leader has warned.
Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes told the National Children and Adult Services Conference that councils needed to be doing more to attract people into the profession.
Forbes told fellow local authority leaders: “Many talented people have left, or are leaving social work, and increased reliance on temporary workers is resulting in costs spiralling. We need to be encouraging people to take on social work as a viable career option. For those who have taken time out, encourage them back into the profession if we’re to tackle rising vacancy rates.”
Forbes, the leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, also criticised the government’s policy around dealing with performance issues in children’s services.
“Councils need power and resources to make a difference before a problem is created, rather than risking failure and being told at the end that the secretary of state is bringing in an independent trust,” he said.
“You can see real echoes of this approach in the parallel agenda of academisation [in schools], where we have the frankly ludicrous situation where local authorities are told they must improve services, even if the government removes their power to intervene, and the end result is academies making a profit with no local oversight, but lots of local blame [for] the local authority if they fail.”
Forbes also said local authorities had done their best to protect children’s services budgets over the past few years, but that wouldn’t prevent a predicted £1.9 billion shortfall between resources and need opening up between 2016 and 2020.