Struggle over recruiting Calderdale social workers is highlighted

Social worker vacancies in cases involving young people are proving difficult to fill, Calderdale councillors heard.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Saturday, 18th June 2022, 10:00 am

Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) said an officers’ report, which summarised pressures on the system in Calderdale, showed although the number of children needing the services were falling, there were nevertheless shortage of social worker numbers.

Officers said there were good workers coming into social care and although there were problems filling some vacancies this was a national challenge, particularly where experienced social workers were concerned.

Training and retaining staff would be key as there were approximately 25 vacancies across Calderdale social work teams at the moment.

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There are around 25 vacancies across Calderdale social work teams at the moment.

A recruitment and retention working group was looking at how to address this – for example, Calderdale currently pays a retention allowance to experienced social work staff.

Calderdale Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Board Chair Coun Evans said it was interesting to see figures showed the numbers of children needing the service were declining.

“Is is because we are quite effective at early intervention? My feeling is that is probably beginning to bear fruit,” he said.

The directorate seemed to be doing well in terms of caseloads per worker despite some teams struggling in terms of numbers, some of which were having to be filled by more expensive agency staff.

Calderdale councillor Ashley Evans

“That has to be a clear objective – moving from agency staff and lack of experience levels,” he said.

Coun Felicity Issott (Con, Ryburn) said there was concern about the social worker base and was told using practice and project managers and moving across social workers from other teams were helping plug the gaps.

Coun Ann Kingstone (Lab, Skircoat) asked about promoting Calderdale as a beautiful place to live to help recruitment – officers said its unique selling points were used.

Figures showed that, for example, there were two vacancies on the Disabled Children’s Team with the council finding it hard to fill the posts, and 3.7 vacant posts on the Multi-Agency Screening Team (MAST).

The Children’s Assessment Team (CAT) has seven social work vacancies as well as one social worker on maternity leave and another long term sick.

Agency social workers are filling some of these gaps.

There are eight social work vacancies on the Locality Teams and a national shortage of social workers is again limiting response although offers of permanent positions have been made to ten students following recent interviews.

The directorate’s goal is to cap caseloads at 23 cases per Social Worker and 15 for newly qualified Social Workers (NQSW).

Caseloads are closely monitored by service managers and if they exceed the cap, action is taken immediately to understand why and to take appropriate action including re-allocation where necessary, say officers.