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Majority of local authorities struggle to recruit experienced social workers

Just two per cent of local authorities in England find it easy to recruit experienced social workers, Department for Education research has found.

The fifth wave of the DfE Children’s Services Omnibus Survey, which looks at senior local authority and Children’s Services Trust’s leaders’ perceptions on, and activities relating to, a range of policy areas, found that while 86% of local authorities said they found it easy to recruit newly qualified social workers, just 2% said it was easy to recruit experienced social workers.

Just under half of local authorities found it difficult to recruit team leaders and around a third found it difficult to fill senior manager vacancies.

Four in 10 local authorities raised concerns that they would have enough social workers to meet their needs over the next year.

The research highlighted that 26% of responding local authorities said new social workers were prepared for all areas of their role with appropriate support, whilst 12% thought they required significantly more support than expected. Almost all respondents said they found the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (AYSE) effective in supporting newly qualified social workers to make the transition from training to practice.

Almost all local authorities said they were a signatory to a regional memorandum of understanding for the use of agency staff. However, just 26% said the memorandum had been beneficial for reducing the number of agency staff used, and 44% said it was beneficial for reducing the cost of agency staff. Non-compliance by other authorities was the most cited reason why local authorities said the memorandum was not beneficial.

Nine in ten local authorities thought social workers in their authority kept up to date with the latest research on social work practice. Four in five said they had engaged with the What Works for Children’s Social Care centre, with 81% of these saying they had engaged with the centre by accessing the What Works website and evidence store.

Nine in ten local authorities said their system for collecting data on children in their authority was effective, whilst 82% said it was effective for collecting data on families, and 72% said it was effective for collecting workforce data. The figures were similar when local authorities were asked about reporting this data.

The vast majority of local authorities (87%) said they had training and development in place for those aspiring to be senior leaders, for example, Assistant Director or Director of Children’s Services.

The first wave was undertaken in September and October 2016. The second wave took place in June and July 2017. The third wave took place in October and November 2017. The fourth wave took place in June to August 2018. The reports on findings from the first to the fourth waves can be accessed here.

Children’s Services Omnibus Wave 5 Research Report July 2020

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