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North West Region Update April 2016

Update for the April meeting of the ADCS Council of Reference

Children’s Social Work Workforce

Benchmarking Report 2015

This summary focusses on the significant work that has been taking place in the region to secure improvements in a stable, high quality workforce.

The report provides a summary of findings from the pre-publication versions of the statutory Children’s Social Work Workforce Return for 2015. Returns have been shared prior to publication by all 23 regional LAs. It is intended to aid planning and local and regional strategies for improved recruitment and retention of children’s social workers via the regional ADCS.

In summary:

  • Across comparable LAs, there were 3,439 children’s social workers at 30 September 2015, an increase in establishment of 192 or 6%
  • Sub-regionally, growth in establishment is greatest in Greater Manchester where, despite the devolution agenda, there has been a 12% growth across nine comparable LAs
  • Having risen in 2014, the vacancy rate has fallen to 11.6%, well below the national benchmark of 15.0% in 2014
  • Regionally, turnover has slightly worsened to 14.8%, yet remains below the 2014 benchmark of 17.0% nationally. This masks a small majority of LAs where turnover improved since 2014, albeit that retention appears the most significant challenge facing the region with 529 (FTE) social workers leaving in 2015
  • Agency rates appear to have improved from 11.7% in 2014 to 9.9% in 2015, well below national averages. Closer analysis reveals data discrepancies, likely to mask higher use of agency staff. Despite this, reported reductions of 70 FTE agency workers and similar reductions in agency headcount suggest improvement
  • There were 40,174 days lost to sickness absence in the year. This is a modest improvement from a sickness absence rate of 5.1% in 2014 to 4.7% in 2015, yet remains above national averages in 2014, the only regional measure to do so in this report. 12 days sickness absence per social worker in 2015
  • Since 2014, caseloads – as indicated by the calculation of Children in Need per Social Worker – have fallen across the region as a whole
  • Despite the increase in numbers of CIN to almost 55,000, the 6% growth in establishment has enabled a reduction from 15.5 CIN per social worker in 2014 to 15.3 in 2015
  • 47% of all children’s social workers are under 40. Age profiles vary across the region
  • Length of service reflects anecdotal evidence with 47% of social workers having served for less than five years.

The notional rate of full-time working in the region was 94.4%, well above that nationally (91.8%) and up from 92.0% in 2014, suggesting a shift further awayfrom part-time working. In a majority of LAs with better than average turnover rates, there are higher proportions of part-time staff pointing to this being a
potentially undeveloped tool across the region, where turnover rates are worsening.

The region has established a process to share statutory children’s social work workforce returns at the point of submission to DfE. This enables early analysis and benchmarking of key workforce indicators between years and across the region. This helps inform local, sub-regional and regional strategic responses to persistent and new challenges, as well as identifying areas of good practice. Working with North West Employers, the local authority employers’ organisation, which has a well-established Human Resources/Organisational Development remit, this is increasingly enabling collaborative responses. 2015 saw the new development of a ‘Local Authority at a glance’ summary, which uses the data to visually represent key data points, trends and describe the ‘typical social worker’. A template example is currently being developed and will soon be available via the ADCS website for consideration by other regions. For further details please contact the Regional Development Manager - Safeguarding and Vulnerable Children, paul.bunker@stockport.gov.uk


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