Failure to boost social worker pay could lead to new salary body

The taskforce set up in the wake of the Baby P scandal has warned it will recommend introducing a national pay body for social workers if employers fail to improve pay for front-line workers, Personnel Today has learned.

The Social Work Taskforce’s final report A Safer, Stronger Future, has outlined reforms aimed at improving confidence in the profession. Recommendations included ensuring social workers received the appropriate pay for their work, with salaries linked to career development and progression for front-line staff.

Taskforce chairwoman Moira Gibb told Personnel Today that employers and unions were willing to act swiftly, but added: “If this turns out not to be the case, we have said that the government should consider whether a national pay body is needed to ensure social workers are fairly rewarded.”

Personnel Today’s sister publication Community Care revealed earlier this year that one in nine social care positions remained unfilled as the function struggled to attract recruits.

Graham White, HR director at Westminster City Council, said the solution to the social work crisis was not a question of throwing extra money at it, but a change to “career structures and new and more flexible remuneration models”.

Social Work Taskforce recommendations

  • A new licensing system involving an assessed probationary year in employment for new social work graduates
  • A national career structure so experienced practitioners can progress in front-line roles as well as management
  • A new standard for employers to offer high-quality supervision, time for continuing professional development, and manageable workloads
  • An independent college of social work to improve leadership in the profession
  • A review of the job evaluation of basic grade social workers to ensure that pay reflects their knowledge and skills.

Source: Social Work Taskforce

He revealed Westminster had already created a salary model that allowed professionals to be paid as much as their line managers to keep them on the front line rather than seeking higher paid management jobs, which could be adopted elsewhere. “The broader pay bands have made it possible for managers to seek out high-quality care professionals and offer them well-paid jobs that are not as managers, but rather as practitioners,” he said.

Elsewhere, Cambridgeshire County Council uses a total reward approach, which includes a focus on learning and development and up-skilling line managers.

Stephen Moir, the council’s director of people and policy, said: “Such approaches, along with greater flexibility in career structures, development opportunities and reward in the round, not just pay, have to be the way forward for the profession.”

Among the recommendations put forward by the taskforce, accepted by the government and due to come into force next year, was that social workers would need a licence to practice.

Gillian Hibberd, president of the Public Sector People Managers Association, said it was vital employers did not shoulder the responsibility for licensing alone. “We are so short of social workers the dilemma is finding people to carry out those assessments, so it has to be a joint responsibility between employers, colleges and professional organisations,” she said.

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