Community Care is evolving – and while we continue to pride ourselves on bringing all those involved in social work the latest news, analysis, practice guidance, events and jobs, we want to do more.
We understand that social worker turnover is a damaging and complex issue for any social work employer to face. Losing experienced staff can lead to organisations employing more expensive agency workers. And frequent changes of worker are difficult for the children, families and adults they are working with, and can threaten the relationship-based practice which is at the heart of good social work.
To offer social work organisations the best support in tackling these issues, we developed the Retention Risk Tool, in partnership with Dr Liz Frost of the University of the West of England. This sees us enter bespoke partnerships with organisations to help senior leaders understand their core areas of strengths and risks within social worker wellbeing and retention. Based on the latest UK and international research, the Retention Risk Tool combines an in-depth survey with qualitative phone interviews, to provide actionable insights and solutions from your workforce.
Case study: Lincolnshire County Council
Janice Spencer, interim director of children’s services | February 2020
How has Lincolnshire’s children’s services changed in recent years?
Our journey began a couple of years ago, and through 2017/18 we did some extensive work in relation to recruitment, retention and succession planning. We’d had a number of staff leave and wanted to understand why this was. So we became proactive around conducting exit interviews and some of the feedback that gave us cause for concern was around staff not feeling that they had protected time for supervision, and thinking caseloads were a bit too high. On hearing these comments we reviewed how we could retain and support staff.
What changes did you make?
We worked on our offer to staff around what they could expect from us as an employer. So that was around having Signs of Safety as a methodology of practice, making sure staff had opportunities for career progression, and introducing a 7% retention bonus for frontline teams. We developed a real career progression structure, looking at how we could spot our ‘shining stars’, support them and invest in them. We have also invested heavily in our training and development offer to staff.
Alongside this, we moved our way of working with Community Care from putting up an advert for staff every quarter, to an ‘always on’ recruitment approach. And we worked with 33, a branding agency, to develop a brand which we tested and co-produced with staff, and marketed in a different way.
When we’d recruited staff – because we’d been successful in recruitment – and created a different landscape for social workers to practice in, we wanted to test out how staff felt about working in Lincolnshire. Were we a good place to work, did they think the workloads were manageable, were they getting their supervision, were they getting that protected time?
Why did you choose the Retention Risk Tool?
I genuinely want to create a culture in which social workers can thrive and one of the greatest tools is to hear their voices.
The traditional Social Work Health Check just didn’t feel it was delivering the quality of the statements the Retention Risk Tool provided and we might say the annual health check is anonymous, but if you’re filling in something that belongs to the local authority, inevitably staff are going to think ‘Oh they’ll know who I am if I say something.’ I think the opportunity to have an independent evaluation frees staff up to speak their minds, and tell it like it is.
I think it’s a really good tool, it’s helped us to understand some of the challenges that staff are experiencing.
I can speak from my own experience from having done it previously [Lincolnshire have done the RRT in 2018 and 2019] that we’ve been able to work from it and we’ve actually been able to evidence some change. In a good way!
What have you done with the results?
Workload was one of the areas you highlighted for us. So my next challenge is around how I create that space where staff feel they’ve got sufficient time to work with their children and families, and they’re not overwhelmed with their workload.
And one of the things I was disappointed with was the feedback about the lack of visibility of senior managers. We have a children’s services bulletin that goes out monthly, and each of us puts a headline and paragraph in about what we’ve done so staff are aware of us being out and about all over the county. This month, I visited one of the social work teams and one of the children’s homes. Lincolnshire is such a big county, and I think that’s one of the challenges but the bulletin gives that visible footprint across the council, and everybody knows that we’re doing something.
We will use the results in our recruitment approach; what we can say is the majority of staff do think that we’re an employer of choice. It’s highlighted those good things, but equally it’s shone a light on those areas of development and we’re fortunate enough that we’ve got a bar which we can measure from, because we’ve done the RRT before. We can see the journey from when we first did it, to where we are now.
Lincolnshire County Council children’s services were rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in 2019. Lincolnshire will be the first council to do Community Care’s Retention Risk Tool three years’ running, in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
If you’re a senior leader in a local authority or other social work employer and want to learn more about how the RRT could help you, get in touch today.
020 3915 9474 | firstname.lastname@example.org