Councils increasingly using ‘golden hellos’ to attract social workers

Our review of the week in social work

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Social Work Recap is a weekly series where we present key news, events, conversations, tweets and campaigns around social work from the preceding week.

From a look into the increasing use of incentive payments to recruit social workers to disabled people going into debt, or without care, because of rising charges, here’s what you might have missed this week in social work:

One-third of councils using incentive payments to attract social workers, finds investigation

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Councils are increasingly using incentive payments to respond to growing social work recruitment issues, an investigation has found.

Freedom of Information requests by Children and Young People Now revealed that, out of 95 local authorities who responded, around one-third (29) offered recruitment payments, known as ‘golden hellos’, worth £1,000-£8,000.

Thirteen of those councils had introduced them over the past three years. During this time, the proportion of vacant posts in councils has risen from 16% to 20%.

Last month West Berkshire Council introduced a £3,000 one-off payment after a year in service and a further £5,000 paid over the following two years. This was the highest recruitment payment offered by any local authority that responded to the FOI requests.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) also confirmed that it had observed a growth in golden hellos offered in rural areas where local authorities were “competing with agencies” to recruit staff.

The investigation also found that 15 councils (16%) offered children’s practitioners retention – or ‘loyalty’ – payments, of whom 13 also offered golden hellos.

Rising social care costs forcing disabled people into debt

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Disabled people in England are being forced into severe financial hardship by rising social care costs, charities have warned.

Charities and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) told The Observer that some disabled people were having to go without home care because they couldn’t afford it, while others were up to £20,000 in debt to their local authority in care charges.

Director of campaigns at DPO Inclusion London Svetlana Kotova called this phenomenon a “tax on disability”.

“Thousands of disabled people are pursued for social care debt, including through the courts, which they don’t have the money to pay,” she added.

“I have no idea how I’m going to pay [the debt]. I’m terrified my care will be terminated,” said Sarah Lewis, who owes her council over £4,000 in care charges.

Lewis has multiple impairments, meaning she is unable to work.

Claire Glasman, co-ordinator of WinVisible, a DPO for disabled women, also warned that social care costs risked leaving disabled women vulnerable to abuse by partners or family as they become financially dependent on them.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said “everyone should be able to access the care they need” and only people “with assets over £23,250” should fully self-fund their care.

Learn how to submit media complaints on social work coverage

Various headlines titled 'What to believe?'

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An upcoming free event is set to teach social workers how to submit media complaints to press regulator Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

The session, set up by IPSO, the Social Workers Union and BASW, aims to help practitioners navigate the complaints process and understand press regulation and editorial standards.

It will also include practical advice on speaking (and not speaking) to the press.

The deadline to register is 10am on 8 June.

Must watch: Those ‘furthest away’ from Finley made decisions about him, says social work academic

Those “furthest away” from Finley Boden made decisions about him, a social work academic has said.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Ciaran Murphy criticised the decision making that led to Finley’s return to his parents, particularly the apparent lack of weight magistrates placed on his social worker’s opinion.

Finley died on Christmas Day 2020, at 10 months old, just 39 days after he was returned to his parents.

“My concern is that those with less expertise about that child are making decisions about the child,” said Murphy, who is a board member of the Association of Child Protection Professionals.

“I do think it’s regrettable that the social worker, who had the best relationship, the most knowledge of Finley, their voice was not holding sway within the family court.”

While the council suggested a four-month transition back to his parents, magistrates favoured Finley’s guardian’s judgment that he be returned within six to eight weeks.

“Guardians are fantastic, they’re highly overworked like child protection social workers, but that decision was preferred when the guardian had only met Finley once via a WhatsApp call,” said Murphy, interim associate head of social work and wellbeing at Edge Hill University. “Surely a social worker, who, on a statutory basis, is visiting him every month to six weeks since he was born, knows him better.”

Asked whether children’s services “in their current state” could see through “manipulative” parents, Murphy highlighted the severe underfunding of the child protection system and high caseloads faced by social workers.

“I can tell you in my latest piece of research, which is going on at the moment and is consistent with findings of several years, I have social workers with over 40 cases,” he added. “They’re spread too thinly”.

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