Issue - meetings

Meeting: 08/09/2021 - Cabinet (Item 35)

35 Recruitment & Retention Business Case (Children's Social Work) pdf icon PDF 628 KB

Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/21/13) relating to proposals for change in children’s social care - recruitment and retention of social workers and front-line managers, attached.

Additional documents:




(a) that more competitive salaries for experienced social workers in the harder to recruit to teams be endorsed by implementing a salary supplement approach for identified posts combined with a retention payment for specific hard to recruit to roles in identified hard to recruit to teams, as outlined in full in section 3.1 of the Report;


(b) that more business support and family practitioner capacity be introduced in the Service to mitigate the risks from vacancies of social workers in hard to recruit to child protection teams to free social workers up from administrative tasks and to support social workers with direct work with children and families, outlined in full in section 3.2 of the Report;


(c) that a career progression opportunity for Personal Advisers be introduced, and to add two qualified social workers and two Education, Employment and Training Workers into the care leaver service to develop the workforce, as per section 3.3 of the Report;


(d) that the costs of further overseas recruitment for qualified social workers be funded, as outlined in full in section 3.4 of the Report;


(e) that the costs of the Leave to Remain application for overseas staff be funded, as outlined at section 3.5 of the Report;


(f) that the offer of bursaries and apprenticeships as social work qualifying pathways be increased, as outlined in section 3.6;


(g) that the Social Work Academy be expanded to extend the learning and development offer and improve workforce development and career progression across the children’s social care workforce as outlined in full in section 3.7 of the Report;


(h) that the professional registration for all non-agency employees working in identified roles in the identified hard to recruit teams who are required to hold professional registration to practice as a social worker be funded, as per section 3.8;


(i) that the relocation allowance for targeted staff in hard to recruit to teams be increased, as outlined in full in section 3.9;


(j) that a fixed term Workforce and Recruitment Lead, a Marketing Officer and administration role to support social worker recruitment be created, as outlined in full in section 3.10; and


(k) that an initial investment of £1.1 millions in 2021/22 from reserves be approved and consideration of a base budget increase of £3.4 millions as part of the 2022/23 budget setting process to fund the above proposals and the creation of 48 additional FTE.


(Councillors Dewhirst, Hannaford and Wrigley attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).


The Cabinet considered the Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/21/13) circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 on proposals for improved recruitment and retention in children’s social work.


The Report outlined the ambitions to achieve the best possible outcomes for children in Devon, especially those in the most challenged circumstances and this required a stable and high performing children’s social care workforce.


Whilst financial remuneration was important to recruitment and retention, it was also imperative to create high quality continuing professional development, support and supervision, leading to a high performing and professionally attractive service with career pathways and the right rewards.


The Report outlined the historical challenges in both recruiting and retaining the best workforce and the issue of high vacancy numbers at the front line of children’s social care, which had been exacerbated by the pandemic. The most recent Ofsted focused visit said that high vacancy rates and use of agency workers, and staff turnover, had been affecting the ability to develop meaningful and sustained relationships with families.


In December 2020, Cabinet agreed improvements to social worker terms and conditions for key posts in ‘hard to recruit to’ teams including increasing the salary range for more experienced social workers, creating an ‘Advanced Social Worker’ career progression grade for social workers and reviewing team manager salaries. The measures had been implemented and other improvements made however, the frontline workforce continued to be highly unstable.


The Report outlined a number of proposals to address the need to recruit approximately 100 permanent qualified social workers and six permanent team managers, and, given the current context of social work vacancies and increased demand, to support social workers in key parts of the service with additional business support and family practitioner capacity. The proposals also addressed the need to strengthen the ability to recruit and retain personal advisers and consolidate improving outcomes for care leavers.


The Report also sought additional investment in high quality continuing professional development opportunities and to have capacity in the service to undertake the recruitment activity needed.


The Report outlined the current context including staffing levels, a new recruitment website and the ongoing recruitment activity and outcomes, whilst also noting that the recruitment of permanent social work staff was highly competitive nationally and supply of experienced qualified workers was limited. This was against a backdrop of rising numbers of children being referred since the second lockdown ended, and higher numbers of children in care (from approximately 780 to 806 now) and children subject to child protection plans (from approximately 530 to 590 now) since this time last year.


The Report outlined the consultations that had taken place with social work staff and how this had informed the current proposals as well as discussions with the Trade Unions who had recognised the need for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35