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Social care talent development needed to repair widening gap between supply and demand

Research carried out by Comensura, a supply management specialist, has revealed that although the demand for temporary qualified social workers (TQSW) is increasing, candidate availability is declining, signalling a need to rethink the development of social care talent.

The research surveyed specialist recruitment agencies of TQSWs and looked into candidate availability in both adult and children’s services. It shows a worrying lack of candidate availability for recruiters and children’s services is identified as having the highest candidate availability gap with 56.7% admitting there is low or very low candidate availability. The recruitment of TQSW in adult services does not fare much better with 52% of recruiters also claiming candidate availability is low or very low.

Comensura’s research also shows that in addition to a decline in availability of candidates, recruiters face a number of other challenges in the recruitment of TQSW:

&middot         There is significant pay rate disparity across the UK (80.4% of responses) and a growing number of TQSWs are willing to travel further

&middot         Newly qualified social workers are finding it hard to get work experience (64.7%)

&middot         The candidate led market is pushing pay rates upwards (60.8%)

&middot         There is a lack of new candidates entering the market (56.9%)

Recruiters predict that the shortfall in candidates is likely to get worse as the impact of the Care Act takes effect in 2015 and 2016. New legislation covering adult services will mean that service users are likely to have to be re-assessed and this is likely to have a knock on effect to the numbers of adult services social workers required.

Large caseloads are driving up demand for skilled practitioners in place of entry level recruits but this in turn is creating a talent block in the sector. In addition, in some cases suitable candidates are able to dictate their price which isn’t the best scenario given the current on-going austerity measures. Equally, overworked social workers with little support can be forced into untenable pressurised situations, unwittingly posing a risk to their clients’ welfare.

Jamie Eaton, head of marketing and Insight, Comensura said, “Clearly there is a distinct need for a review of how social care talent is developed to help close the gap between supply and demand.

“At the moment, local authorities are often working to a tight budget and are limited to a small pool of talent. As a result they frequently call upon temporary social care workers to fulfil any short term resourcing issues they have. 

“As a service that is under constant scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a number of recent high profile cases of child neglect or abuse, our research paints a worrying picture in terms of the provision of adequate care for some of our most vulnerable people.

“However, in spite of the lack of talent coming into the sector, there are ways that local authorities can ensure effective use of the resources they already have in place and effective planning is essential. Local authorities can run the risk of panicking if they are under-resourced and will take on any number of TQSCWs at any price.

“As a managed service provider, we are experienced in working with local authorities and managing recruitment agencies to ensure their temporary social worker resourcing needs are met by advising on the effective placement of recruits at the right price.”


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