There is no denying that there is a national challenge to recruit and retain Children’s Social Workers. In 2017 the national vacancy rate was 17% with 68.7% of vacancies were being covered by agency staff.
With this in mind, West Sussex County Council has thought about how to approach recruitment and retention in social work and say #stepthisway to find out more.
A newly introduced element of their strategy is a £15,000 retention payment, spread over five years, within the areas of its service with the highest vacancy gaps and agency usage; including social workers, advanced practitioners, practice managers and group managers. The scheme launched on November 5th and is open to both current staff and to new starters, meaning that even more people are able to benefit from this drive to improve retention.
Initial internal feedback has been particularly positive, with 90% of eligible staff opting to join the scheme. November has also seen a record month, with applications to join them up 150% with the first new recruit already in place and working!
Their strategy is now more accurately a retention and recruitment one – targeting both aspects to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
To provide extra support for staff, a Casual Bank has been introduced which provides flexibility for those not looking for full time employment and can be called upon to relieve pressure in times of need.
As a result of these initiatives, the rate of external recruitment increased significantly. On average the team have tripled their job applications and doubled their successful appointments.
Feedback from social workers was that having a stable management team, delivering robust and regular supervision was of particular importance to them; so WSCC have listened to this and working to stabilise the structure for their colleagues.
Looking to the future, an additional 37 social worker roles and 6 Practice Manager posts have also been created to reduce caseloads. This together with the implementation of ‘blended teams’, which increases administration and Child & Family Workers within Social Worker teams, is reducing the pressure on the organisations existing social workers.
Sarah Daly, Head of Children’s Social Care, explained that “We have listened to what practitioners have told us and responded through pay and development incentives as well as the right support in place that enables them to spend more time with children, young people and their families”.