A national campaign to entice 5,000 former social workers back to work has been launched after an report showed that most councils are struggling to recruit social care professionals.
The government is looking to set up a career-matching service – bringing together social work returners with prospective employers – and training schemes to get returners up to speed.
Respect and Protect, a report from the Local Government Association (LGA), revealed that nearly one in 10 social worker posts remained empty, and that 89% of councils had reported having difficulties recruiting experienced social workers.
Councillor Margaret Eaton, chairman of the LGA, said: “There are real difficulties for councils in recruiting and retaining high calibre social worker staff. In the short term, we must encourage up to 5,000 recently retired child social work professionals back to the front line to help keep children safe.
“It is a tough job to do and for councils it is the toughest job to fill.”
Alan Warner lead officer for communications at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association (PPMA) supported the government initiative. He said recruitment and retention problems had been exacerbated by the negative publicity surrounding the death of Baby P, which had caused the public to lose respect for social workers and that the public at large need to get behind social workers and support them.
“We need to give people respect for what they do,” said Warner. “If there is no respect then why would anyone want to do it?
“There needs to be more information made available to the general public about what social workers do, and perhaps national awards to recognise achievements. There is no overnight fix for this, we just need a more balanced approach.”
In December Personnel Today reported on how the media portrayal of the Baby P case was adding to the sector’s recruitment and retention problems.