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Wed, 06 Jul 22 11:59

The recruitment and retention challenge

When I was asked to write the ADCS blog for the Eastern region, I inevitably thought about some of the challenges that we are facing in my own local authority, Southend, and the challenges we share more widely - the recruitment and retention of social workers sprang to my mind.

Like I am sure many others across the country, we are struggling to recruit permanent social workers in the Eastern region. This extends to agency workers too, with rates increasing significantly over the last few months and noticeably since Covid lockdown restrictions have eased. In the Eastern region we have a strong Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to mitigate hourly rates spiralling up and agencies pitching LAs against each other, as we all try to fill our vacancies. I have only been in the region for two years so cannot claim to have had any input into the original MoU, but it really has helped us manage a very tricky issue across the region and is a helpful tool to prompt discussion and, where appropriate, challenge within the region.

In Southend, we have developed positive links with our local universities which has enhanced and strengthened our ‘grow your own’ programme. The offer to our student social workers and our ASYEs is a key element of our wider workforce development strategy, as I am sure it is in many other areas, and I was really pleased earlier this week to receive positive feedback about our social work apprentices in Southend.

Lecturers from the university fed back that our apprentices ‘…give teaching a whole new meaning, adding depth to conversation and brining their experiences and knowledge to the classroom’.

I want even more students to come to Southend and experience the good quality advice, challenge, and support from experienced practice educators, and it was great to hear from the university that the ‘..quality of the written work from practice educators in Southend is outstanding, the learning experiences being given to the students is of high quality.’

The positive feedback was good to hear and a testament to all the staff in Southend involved in our student social worker programme in one way or another, but I know that growing our own is not the panacea to the recruitment issues that we face. Our revamped workforce strategy in Southend will help us with that, but this issue cannot be resolved by an individual LA or a regional approach alone and so I really hope that the current workforce pressures, and solutions to them, feature in the conclusion of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. To not do so will be a big opportunity missed.



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