Agenda item

Recruitment and Retention of Children Services Staff

The Committee is asked to note the report.



Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services (DCS), gave a summary of this report. It was explained that multiple pipelines were being used to create a more stable workforce including; the Social Work Academy, the Open University, apprenticeships, student placements and international recruitment.


It was noted that 34% of social workers were agency workers as there had been high attrition rates in full time social workers, and recruitment agencies had been aggressively recruiting social workers into the agency market. The DCS remarked that Children’s Services could save £2million if all agency workers were employed by the County Council.


Members raised concern that salary progression for Gloucestershire County Council social workers did not match up with other authorities and suggested this could have affected staff retention. Officers explained that remuneration was not the only reason for staff leaving and that salaries were arranged in collaboration with neighbouring authorities to avoid driving up wages. Paying staff more would undoubtedly help, but the staffing budget was already overspent.


A member informed the Committee that prior to the meeting, she explored how to become a social worker online and had found it difficult to find clear instructions on how to get started. Officers were asked whether enough was being done to recruit new social workers. Officers explained that ideally a national campaign for social work would be rolled out and that having multiple routes in to social work did complicate things. It was noted the social care sector was awaiting Department for Education implementation for a programme of progression into social care.


Several members raised the issue of housing being too expensive to incentivise young social workers to live and work in Gloucestershire and wondered what Gloucestershire County Council could do to help. Officers explained that accommodation support costs for social workers were offered up to £150/week but the Authority did not have housing stock that could be offered.


The Executive Director felt it was necessary to have discussions with the District Councils, in order to identify the problems and find solutions.  A member suggested officers should contact Renishaw as they were a large employer in Gloucestershire and had experience with staff accommodation. 


It was also explained that agencies were the biggest threat and that the Department for Education was on the cusp of legislative changes to prevent newly qualified social workers from going directly into agency work. It was anticipated this could be up to a two-year limit. Members.  Members felt there was a moral and ethical crisis in the profession and showed a willingness to contribute to lobbying for this change.  The Cabinet Member for Children's Safeguarding and Early Years supported the committee's request to lobby the appropriate organisations and agreed to progress the request. 


In response to a question about recruiting those who had recently retired, it was explained there was scope but it was difficult to convince people to leave retirement and an effective strategy would need to be explored. The DCS agreed to explore this option. 


During the discussion, a member asked for data that covered the length of time between placing a social worker job advert and a new staff member being on-boarded, as well as the conversion rate from accepted offers to new staff coming through the door. Members also asked if it was possible to produce benchmarks for these statistics.

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