A £15,000 incentive encouraging graduates to retrain as social workers will fail to tackle key retention issues and might attract the wrong people into the profession, experts have warned.
The goal to persuade 200 graduates with 2:1 degree qualifications to study a Masters course in social work, starting in September, comes in the wake of the Baby P scandal, which hit the sector's recruitment and retention.
But Fran Fuller, acting chair of the British Association of Social Workers, told Personnel Today she was "disgusted" by the new proposal.
She said the government was just "putting a plaster over" the industry's retention problems, and that front-line social workers would be "insulted" by the incentives being offered to graduates.
"We have never had a difficulty in recruiting students. The issue isn't about the recruitment of students but the retention of good, qualified social workers," she said.
The number of people taking social worker degrees in the past year had risen by 41%, she said.
Money could be better spent on providing front-line workers with adequate resources so they were less inclined to leave the profession.
Moira Brown, HR director at private social care provider Care South, said: "Social work is not a career that is highly paid so the golden handshake may well attract the wrong candidates."
She added that the government had to identify what motivated social workers to ensure they were incentivised throughout their careers, not just at the start.
Meanwhile, Tom Richmond, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "It's logical to look at financial incentives to attract graduates but we don't want to sacrifice quality while pushing more people in."