Councils join forces to attract social workers to region

By Neil Puffett

| 08 May 2017

A group of councils has teamed up to run a regional campaign to persuade children's social workers to work in the area.

Councils in the North East of England are to work together to attract social workers to the region. Picture: Emilie Sandy

The move by councils in the North East of England, which has 11 local authority areas, comes at a time when many councils across England face difficulties in filling vacancies.

Government figures published earlier this year show that the total number of children's social work vacancies rose slightly from 5,470 in September 2015, to 5,540 in September 2016.

Writing in a blog for the Association of Directors of Children's Services website, the organisation's North East representative, Daljit Lally, who is DCS at Northumberland, said the region is facing "immediate" workforce pressures.

She said councils within the area have decided to work together to attract social workers to the region, rather than promoting their own individual local authority areas.

"One of the things we've been working on recently is how we can work together to promote our fabulous region to those who are not fortunate enough to work here already," she said.

"In early May we will be taking our regional recruitment campaign to the North West Social Work Show in Manchester.

"Instead of promoting individual local authorities, we hope to persuade social workers that there are some fantastic career opportunities for them across the whole North East."

She said that one of the "trickiest" issues the region is facing is a reliance on agency staff - with councils collectively spending £18m on them in 2016/17, an increase on the previous year.

The number of agency workers working as children and family social workers is on the rise - with 5,330 as of 30 September 2016, an increase of 9.6 per cent from the 4,860 the previous year.

"Whilst we all rely on agency staff to fill short-term and unexpected gaps, we share the goal of creating a stable and high-quality permanent workforce because we know this is key to supporting children and families," Lally said.

"To achieve this we must get a grip on both spend and quality in relation to agency workers. So like many other regions, we've returned to conversations about how a regional agreement on the use of agency workers could be part of our approach to workforce development."

Out of the 11 councils in the North East region, nine have so far been inspected under Ofsted's single inspection framework, with two - Sunderland, and Darlington - rated as "inadequate, four - Middlesbrough, Northumberland, Durham and Redcar & Cleveland - rated as "requires improvement", and three - Hartlepool, Gateshead and Stockton - rated as "good".

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