‘Skills crisis’ in social work

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Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Council social work departments are facing an “urgent skills crisis”, with almost three-quarters struggling to recruit and retain staff, the Local Government Association has warned.

The Association called for “smarter” use of the £65 million currently spent by the Government on grants for social worker training, arguing that the failure to vet candidates for higher education courses meant that some of those receiving the money turn out to be unsuitable and do not go on to work in the profession.

Need for social workers is at an “all-time high”, with 1.3 million vulnerable people relying on social services to keep them safe, said the LGA. Pressure on existing staff has been increased by a 10% rise over the last five years in the number of referrals of children deemed to be at risk of harm and a 32% rise in child protection plans i n the wake of a string of scandals, including the death of Baby P in 2007. The number of children in care has increased by 12% over the past four years.

Some 60% of children’s services departments were reporting that it was becoming more difficult to find new staff, while seven out of ten councils said they had experienced problems either recruiting or retaining social workers

The LGA – which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales – issued a call to the Government to put social work on a par with other health and social care professions in terms of career prospects.

Speaking as the National Children and Adult Services Conference opened in Manchester, the chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board David Simmonds said: “With tens of millions of pounds currently spent on grants for social work trainees with no assurance that they will find their way into any of the many vacancies around the country, we need to get smarter and ensure that these resources are available to councils who can act more flexibly to respond to local need.

“In many areas career development for existing social workers and recruiting experienced managers are higher priorities than getting more people through social work courses.

“With 60% of children’s services departments reporting rising recruitment challenges and a 50% rise in the number of referrals to children’s social services, we need to use all available resources in the most effective manner so that we have a workforce fit for the challenges our society faces in keeping children safe and giving them a fresh start when things go wrong at home.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: ” We are overhauling the social work profession and since 2010 have invested more than £400 million on bursaries and training programmes to attract the very best candidates to the profession.

“This is a part of more than half a billion invested by Government in social work since 2010, including the introduction of fast track training programmes such as Frontline and Step Up to Social Work which are now attracting as many as 20 applicants for every place.

“This will give bright graduates and career changers the opportunity to become social workers within two years, supported by experienced social workers and leading universities.”

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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