Council bid to ease social worker crisis

COUNCILS say they are working hard to recruit new social workers after it emerged there were almost 200 vacancies across Suffolk and Essex.

Anthony Bond

COUNCILS say they are working hard to recruit new social workers after it emerged there were almost 200 vacancies across Suffolk and Essex.

The figures were obtained by public sector union Unison which said councils should take action to attract new staff into social work and stem the stream of workers leaving the profession.

In Essex, 28.1% of all full time social worker posts are vacant. Of the 593.5 positions, 166.5 are vacant.

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In Suffolk, 11.48% of posts are vacant with 29 vacancies out of 252 positions.

Essex County Council said it had been working strenuously to increase the number of social workers employed at the council, including recruitment of experienced social workers from Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. The council said it also makes use of social care agencies to recruit temporary staff to fill vacancies. It said 23 professionals will be starting in July.

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Peter Martin, deputy leader of Essex County Council, said: “We are working with Anglia Ruskin University and a number of other universities to recruit newly qualified social workers and also to develop the skills of our existing workforce. We currently have 21 students studying their social work degree either full or part-time and we will have 20 more spread across various higher education institutions starting in September 2009. These measures have helped to reduce our vacancy rate.”

Suffolk County Council said this year it decided to invest �3.8m extra over a three-year period to recruit up to 50 new children's social workers.

It said it has successfully recruited 28 new social workers recently which has reduced its current vacancies to 24.5 full time posts - or 9.7% of the workforce. It said more posts will be filled in the near future.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Please let us reassure everyone in Suffolk - our services to protect children are strong and effective.

“There will always be children at risk in Suffolk, unfortunately that is the nature of our society. But we are very confident that our services are robust and effective.”

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, said: “We are in the middle of a serious recruitment and retention crisis. Social workers are under pressure from all sides.

“Councils need urgent action plans and to work with central government and unions to plug the gaps, before we have another tragedy like Baby P.”

Essex County Council said it would like to hear from anyone thinking about a career as a social worker or occupational therapist. If you are interested visit .

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