The director of the county council’s children’s services has assured councillors there are robust plans in place to hire social care staff to tackle challenges recruiting in the department.
This week children’s social care leaders were grilled on Ofsted’s latest monitoring report for the failing service – which found current social workers have been left with large caseloads due to a high turnover of staff.
During a meeting of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) children’s select committee on Tuesday, councillor for Chiltern Ridges, Patricia Birchley, asked what action has been taken to ensure permanent social workers are recruited.
She raised concerns over the difficulty of recruiting social workers in the home counties as there is only a “small pool” of potential staff who may choose to find work in London.
Cllr Birchley said: “Talking in terms of capacity, caseloads, high gaps between visits, staff turnover, which are issues still concerning Ofsted, can you tell me what is being done to recruit more social workers and the budgetary constraints of this?
“Recruiting and hiring social workers in the home counties for children is very difficult. There’s a small pool of people available and they can go into London, there’s all sorts of challenges for the problem.”
The letter published by Ofsted last week said there are “early signs of improvements” within the service, however some young people are still not receiving the support and protection they need due to inconsistencies.
Director of children’s services at BCC, Tolis Vouyioukas, assured members he is “confident” that the recruitment strategy currently in place will attract experienced social workers.
He added the number of agency staff within the children’s services “is not as high as you would expect” and in some parts of the department agency placements have been converted to permanent contracts.
Mr Vouyioukas said: “A couple of things that are worth referring to in relation to the Ofsted report, there’s a reference that ‘most social workers visit children regularly and build effective relationships with the young people they see.’
“Clearly that is not consistent across the service, but in a short space of time since the previous monitoring visit we are in a slightly better place. That is reassuring our staff want to do things differently and want to work with us.
“It’s also worth noting that at the middle tier, that’s the heads of service management group, that all colleagues there are permanent. Of course front-line staff always want to go and work in places where there is a permanent, stable leadership team.”
Work is also underway to help social workers improve the quality of their written assessments, so good practice is consistent across the service.
Mr Vouyioukas added: “What is more helpful and what is far more likely to assist them in the longer term is the conversations we need to have with them about the quality of their written work.
“When you pick up a case file you should be able to know why we are involved, what is the reason why children in social care get involved with the family, and what are the outcomes we want to achieve.”