Issue - meetings
Performance update - social work workforce
The Assistant Director of Children and Families Services introduced the report of the Director of Children, Families and Education which provided an overview on the current position of the social work workforce and highlighted some of the key challenges faced by the Service, including the workforce adapting to new ways of working, supporting recruitment and retention, managing staff absence rates, and the use of temporary agency staffing.
The report detailed the national issues with workforce instability in children’s social work staffing which had been exacerbated by Covid-19. Within Wirral, it was reported that the vacancy rate had increased by over 6% in the previous 12 months to 28%. In the 12 months up to 30 August 2021 32 new employees had been recruited into qualified social work posts, and 36 had left posts, the first 12-month period with a deficit position in terms of staff recruitment and retention. Members were advised that through exit interviews, it was ascertained that a number of staff members had delayed the decision to seek progression elsewhere until after Covid-19 which may have exacerbated the deficit position. Further details were also provided on new initiatives to encourage recruitment and retention.
A detailed discussion ensued where the wellbeing of staff was raised. It was reported that the national survey of social workers was undertaken in September 2020 which identified that the caseload rate of 13.9 per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff at Wirral was significantly lower than all statistical neighbours, and whilst it had since risen to 15 per FTE, it was still one of the lowest rates. The sickness absence levels within the service was also raised and the Director of Children, Families and Education undertook to provide a further detailed report to Committee on the issue. The need to ensure the experience of social workers leaving was retained or replaced was emphasised. Furthermore, the use of agency staff was raised, where it was reported that many staff members preferred the flexibility and increased rate of pay for agency work, but that the benefits of becoming a permanent member of staff were outlined to agency workers such as pension contribution, essential care use and annual leave.
Resolved – That
the current position regarding the children’s social
workforce position be noted.
(2) the proposed actions outlined in the report including the development of a revised Social Work Workforce Strategy be noted.