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Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

In the spotlight

The green shoots of recovery in Rotherham social work

A sponsored feature from Rotherham Council

Three years ago Rotherham Council hit the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Its catastrophic failure to deal with mounting child sexual exploitation cases alongside partner agencies was exposed through the Jay report. And quickly following this was the Casey report which revealed fundamental flaws across the whole council.

In addition to this, a damning Ofsted report put the council into intervention and this trio of events prompted the government to bring in commissioners.

Wind the clock forward and Rotherham Council is barely recognisable as the one described above. Commissioners have handed most powers back to the council and regular monitoring visits by Ofsted have shown real changes are being made in children’s social care.

And it is hoped a full Ofsted inspection expected later this year will give the council the boost it needs to be given back full control of all its powers.

A desirable place to work

Since the ticking time bomb went off in 2014, there has been a whole sea change of leadership across the entire council, with children’s services the most changed. With this change has brought much ambition to make the council not only better than before, but the best it can be – an authority which other councils want to bench mark against.

Part of this ambition has included a massive rethink about how children’s social services are delivered. New teams have been established, caseloads reduced, early help transformed, training stepped up and management oversight strengthened.

This has played a significant part in how people view the council, and rather than be put off by the past, social workers are now applying for vacancies in their droves at all levels.

This includes a bumper crop of 17 newly qualified social workers about to swell the council ranks in the next few months, after more than 100 people applied for the much sought after places – the most applications the council has had for such vacancies.

Green shoots of recovery

“There can’t be anyone who hasn’t heard about the Rotherham story,” says Ian Thomas, who was appointed strategic director of children’s services in January 2015.

Ian Thomas, strategic director of children's services, Rotherham Council

Ian Thomas, strategic director of children’s services, Rotherham Council

“This was a town blighted by the exploitation of children over a 16-year period and on an industrial scale. However, following the appointment of commissioners, supported by local elected members, green shoots of recovery have definitely started to emerge.

“And nowhere can this be more clearly seen than with our social worker recruitment drive. We knew we had to make significant changes if we were to stand any chance of attracting permanent staff to the council.

“This time last year nearly 50 per cent of the staff were from agencies. Not only was this crippling us financially, given we like everywhere else have massive budget issues to deal with, it also meant we had a revolving door of social workers, which can only have detrimental effects in terms of dealing with vulnerable families and children. It also meant training was never fully embedded as the learning left when agency staff contracts ended.

“Our vision was to reduce the agency staff to a manageable level, but at the same time we knew we needed to rethink the social work offer we had.

“What we actually needed to do was increase the numbers of social workers on our books in order to make our vision work. This all comes at a cost, but it is an invest to save particularly as we, like elsewhere, are seeing significant rises in the numbers of children coming into the care system.

Come and be part of the change

“We have now reduced our agency social worker numbers to 15 per cent, which is now below the national average, but we still want to do more. We want more people with good ideas, good practices and great social work skills to come and join us at this pivotal time.

“Currently we have vacancies for a CSE team manager and a MASH team manager, advanced practitioners and locality social workers. Having social workers based in the localities where the cases are is hugely important. Not only does this help build trust and familiarity; but it also helps develop partnership bonds which are fundamental to the whole family approach we adopt here at Rotherham Council.

“Now is the time to come and work for Rotherham and be part of the improvement journey; part of the change. There has never been a more exciting time to come and work here. If you can imagine what it would be like to have a blank canvas and be able to write your own rules, then this is the place for you.

“We want people who want to redefine how we deal with children’s services, who have ambitions about how we make the best within the budgets we have and how we make our town stand out for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.”

To apply for any of the jobs above, or others, please visit our children’s social worker jobs site.