Recent years haven’t been kind to the reputation of social services in the Midlands.
The region has been home to some of the highest profile problems in social services in recent years from the harrowing death of four-year-old Daniel Pelka in Coventry to the improvement plan that saw consultants iMPOWER take charge of children’s services in Sandwell.
And that’s before we even get to the long-running problems that have dogged children’s services in Birmingham or note how the Midlands is home to more inadequate-rated council children’s services than any other English region.
Seeing the Midlands through this prism does the region a disservice, however. Adult social care in the region boasts a great deal of innovation and it’s hard to generalise about a vast and incredible diverse area that stretches from Herefordshire in the west to Lincolnshire in the east.
And while the bad news of recent years has affected the region’s ability to recruit highly skilled and experienced social workers, many in the area are determined to reverse this trend.
John Roughton, principal social worker in Herefordshire, says his council’s long-term strategy has not only benchmarked salaries but also increased support for both newly qualified social workers and all those with less than three years experience.
“We’re part of the Social Work Academy at the University of Birmingham,” he says. “Social workers are supported to join and take modules through the university. They also have a workplace mentor, a practice educator and co-work complex cases with an advanced practitioner.
“This means they are largely guaranteed to become a senior social worker within that period. In turn, our senior social workers and advanced practitioners do some teaching and research at the university.”
Kate Wilson, client partner at recruitment and resourcing communications agency TMPW, says academies are a key strategy for councils in the area, recognising that experienced social workers still want the support and space to develop their careers and skills.
She says many councils in the Midlands are also showcasing their strengths to counteract some of the negative publicity.
“Birmingham for example often attracts a lot of negative attention, yet fostering and adoption is a real strength for them.” Birmingham’s focus on early intervention in children’s social work is another leading area.
“Ofsted inspections are more aggressive now so we’re likely to see a trend of more under-performing councils in the next year or so at least. But councils can showcase their strengths, make it easy for social workers to apply and support them once they are in post,” Wilson adds.
Would you like to work in the Midlands? Find out more by reading our social work careers guide.