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Nearly a third of BCP Council children's services roles not filled by permanent staff

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ALMOST a third of social work posts at BCP Council's children’s services are not filled by permanent staff.

Most of the positions are covered by more expensive agency staff while the authority steps up its recruitment, retention and training programme, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The council, along with many others in the country, has long suffered a shortfall in trained social workers. It is aiming to have a fully staffed workforce, without agency staff, by April 2024.

BCP Council has suffered a shortfall in trained social workers
BCP Council has suffered a shortfall in trained social workers

Members of the council’s children’s overview and scrutiny committee were told a rolling programme of job advertising had recently attracted seven potential recruits and was offering a standard £3,000 recruitment and retention payment, with £7,000 for team manager.

It can also offer payments to help new staff moving into the area of up to £8,000.

The committee heard that regular checks were made to ensure the council’s pay rates and other incentives remained competitive.

The workforce is about to be supported by 15 international social workers, recruited through an agency, due to start work this month and March.

They had been due in January but were delayed by Covid travel restrictions.

A report to the committee said that despite all the packages in place, the council has continued to suffer a high level of staff turnover which has affected performance.

It said: “At times we have lost large numbers of social workers and team managers in a short space of time, particularly to neighbouring authorities, and we have been concerned that people will not want to come to work for BCP Council because news of our challenges travels.”

Councillors were told that 31 exit interviews carried out during the last year showed that the top three reasons for leaving were unmanageable workloads, not feeling valued, and the council culture.

Interim director of children’s service Elaine Redding, who is shortly to leave the council, said in September, after a critical Ofsted report on provision for children with additional health and education needs: “The council accepts that a major transformation programme is needed locally to make services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities as strong and supportive as they need to be.”

A similar commitment was been made by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group which works alongside the council with children and families in need of extra support.

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