The number of children cared for by local authorities in England is the highest it has been in the past generation and there’s no doubt that social workers go above and beyond to provide vital care for children, young people and their families.
At the same time, local authorities are still struggling to attract permanent workers.
Over recent years, this has created a culture of overreliance on agency workers to maintain support – creating a fundamentally flawed system. Until recently, Bedford Borough Council was no exception.
There are several reasons why overreliance on agency workers in social care is problematic. In addition to the burdening fees that come with employing agency workers, the lack of continuity in service left the children with no friendly, familiar face when at their most vulnerable, making it difficult to create close, personal and meaningful relationships.
The council is focused on ensuring a safe environment and providing services which protect children from harm, improving outcomes for the children and their families. Funding, of course, plays a massive part in enabling this, which is why it’s so important to invest in the right places.
Thanks to a strategic partnership with Guidant Global, the Council has been able to turn things around, slashing its locum usage, saving thousands of pounds in the process, and investing the savings to provide better care for the children of Bedford Borough.
The Council set a strategic priority to recruit and retain a great workforce. With the help of the strategic partnership with Guidant, the Council was able to create a workforce development strategy to achieve this, ensuring that children supported by the Council receive the best possible support available from a high quality, committed workforce.
This is making a huge difference to outcomes for children. The Council started with a workforce dominated by agency workers. At its peak, it reached as high as 52% – their plan was to cut this down to 20%.
The Council adapted their approach, communications and visual messaging, and created an energetic employer value proposition to enhance their offering. This was not only about salaries, but also about providing a truly welcoming environment to make the Council a place where people really want to work.
For instance, showing appreciation with a ‘thank you’ message after an application was made. Likewise, sending a warm and friendly welcome from the directors on the first day, and ensuring a strong and supportive on-boarding process.
Guidant and the Council held sessions with the Council’s existing workforce to identify pain points and areas for improvement. They then reviewed historic attrition and asked what could be done differently to change this.
By understanding the needs of the workforce and the challenges they face, they were able to convert temporary staff to permanent – almost unheard of in this field – and attract and recruit new social workers and senior social workers.
After six months of this new approach, they managed to exceed expectations and reduce agency usage to under 10% – far below the national average.
Before, the Council were seeing agency workers come and go, with children being forced to adapt. Now, they provide a consistent, high-level quality of care. Not only were they able to attract the permanent employees needed to support children, but they were also able to save £1.5m in the first 12 months on agency workers.
Since employing a strong and stable workforce, Guidant have received overwhelmingly positive feedback with their clients and partners noting greater consistency and quality in delivery.
The children of Bedford Borough and their families are now better supported to build strong, meaningful relationships and focus on creating better, bright futures.
Councillor James Valentine, Portfolio holder for Children’s Services, has noted, ‘The achievement of recruiting high quality social workers is incredible as are the cost savings. Most importantly the children are starting to see the benefit.
The feedback we are getting from families and children is overwhelming positive, mainly because of the high-quality workforce we have. Our Social Workers get up in the morning to make a difference to the lives of children, that’s why we do what we do. I am pleased that we now have the knowledge that on a daily basis our wonderful social workers are out there making a difference to the lives of children.
It makes me feel proud that we have such a strong team of social workers, and such strong partners in Guidant. It makes me full of hope for the future, and the knowledge that we can continue to make a difference.’
Often, agency staff are used as a quick fix to plug talent shortages. But this can drastically impact children’s progression due to the difficulties in building meaningful relationships.
Recently, the children’s social care workforce inquiry was launched in order to better understand what is needed by social workers to ensure children and families are given the best possible help, support, and protection.
Guidant’s approach may prove to play a huge role in guaranteeing this.
Guidant Global provide global workforce management solutions (MSP, RPO & SOW) that help companies find the best permanent and contingent talent. We champion #ABetterWay – a forward-thinking way of working; moving away from the embedded staffing industry mentality of ‘recruitment by numbers’ and taking a wider perspective, by shifting the focus to people – the vibrant force that drives thriving businesses.
If you are inspired by Guidant’s work with Bedford Borough Council and are looking for a trusted workforce solutions provider please visit www.guidantglobal.com