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Social work vacancies rise as staff retention proves challenging

Jobsgopublic explains the rising number of vacancies is largely driven by increased movement of staff between providers in the sector, and a growing dropout rate amongst recently-qualified social workers.

Jobsgopublic says pressure on social workers has intensified in recent years. Decreased budgets  as a result of austerity measures have resulted in many social work departments seeing their teams shrink and caseloads increase.  Local authorities and social work training providers are responding with innovative new schemes aimed at improving retention rates among new entrants to the profession. 

Miles Skelton, managing director of Jobsgopublic, says, “Social work has always been a very challenging as well as a very rewarding profession, and years of real term budget cuts mean that more work than ever is expected of social workers.

“That pressure can mean that social care departments are forced to give fairly newly qualified social workers bigger and tougher caseloads than they would like.  Inevitably that is having an impact on retention.

“Local authorities are now redoubling their efforts to ensure that more of the graduates that are attracted to the profession go on to make a long and successful careers in it, with more ongoing training and support.  They want to make sure that they can create the right mix of new and experienced staff, so that social workers themselves can make an even bigger impact on the lives of the vulnerable people they work with.”

Jobsgopublic says that the 1% cap on pay rises is also contributing to the rising number of experienced social workers seeking new roles within the sector. Growing numbers of more senior staff have been jobseeking in the hope of maintaining real-terms growth in their salaries, or moving to a higher pay band.

To address this turnover, Local Authority social care departments have also been launching new initiatives aimed at keeping more experienced staff in the profession.  For example, some hold open evenings that give experienced current and prospective social care staff the opportunity to meet the council’s leadership, while other local authorities offer a retention bonus or additional holiday allowance to staff staying longer than two years.

Miles Skelton says: “Increasing salaries is the most obvious way to retain staff, but in the current economic climate that is not always possible, so many employers are looking at other ways to improve retention.  Rewarding staff for longer service as well as developing other ways to make them feel valued and supported is becoming increasingly important.”

“There is also a recognition that relatively high turnover is a new reality in the profession for the time being, and we are being asked to develop new ways to help employers to manage that.  For example we have developed a social work Talent Pool, which allows employers to sort, sift, communicate and engage with potential candidates in advance of recruiting needs.  This means that as soon as an opportunity comes up they already have a head start in the recruiting process.”

*Year end May 31st 2014

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