Locum contracts may not be for every children’s social worker: Take a fresh look at permanent roles

Children's permanent social worker Article

Locum contracts may not be for every children’s social worker: Take a fresh look at permanent roles

The recent data published by Community Care surely did not surprise anyone. Over the past few years, social workers have been voting with their feet, and the result is a significant rise in the number of social workers being employed as locums across English councils.

For many, this is not a popular development. At Pertemps Social Care, we ask our social workers why they are prepared to give up a permanent contract, holiday and sick pay and a pension to take on the uncertainty of locum work?

For many, it’s about adjusting the work/life balance. Until recently, many local authorities simply couldn’t offer them the flexibility they wanted.

However, in spite of recent trends, local authorities are listening. Councils like St Helens are taking individuals’ requirements into account and giving them the support they need to thrive.

Stability and Continuity

At the heart of local authorities’ preference for permanent roles lies the promise of stability and continuity. Unlike locum workers who may come and go, permanent staff offer a sense of consistency in service delivery. Establishing enduring relationships with children and families is paramount in social work, and permanent roles provide the foundation for nurturing these vital connections over time.

In children’s social work, this stable workforce can be beneficial or even vital, as children require this stability in a world that has up to that point has not been so stable for them.

Investment in Long-Term Solutions

Permanent staff embody a commitment to the long-term vision of local authorities. By investing in permanent positions, authorities signal their dedication to addressing systemic issues and fostering solutions within their communities. This investment goes beyond employment; it represents a collective effort to enact lasting change and uphold the welfare of vulnerable individuals and families.

Cultural Cohesion and Team Dynamics

The integration of permanent staff fosters a sense of cohesion and camaraderie within social work teams. Shared values and experiences underpin collaborative efforts towards achieving common goals. Permanent roles cultivate a sense of belonging and accountability, enhancing overall effectiveness in delivering essential services.

Cost-Effective and Sustainable Solutions

While the allure of higher pay rates may entice individuals into locum positions, local authorities recognise the value of cost-effective and sustainable solutions offered by permanent staff. By streamlining recruitment processes and minimising turnover, authorities can mitigate the financial burden associated with frequent staff changes. Furthermore, investing in permanent roles promotes workforce stability, ultimately yielding greater efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

Community Engagement and Trust

Permanent staff serve as ambassadors of local authorities within their communities, fostering trust and rapport with residents. Through sustained engagement and presence, permanent workers cultivate meaningful connections and partnerships, empowering communities to actively participate in decision-making processes and service provision. This community-centric approach is integral to the overarching goal of promoting social inclusion and empowerment.

Career Progression and Professional Development

For social workers, permanent roles offer a pathway for career progression and professional development. By providing opportunities for ongoing training, mentorship, and advancement, local authorities demonstrate their commitment to nurturing talent and fostering excellence within the workforce. Permanent positions serve as springboards for personal and professional growth, enabling social workers to realise their full potential and make meaningful contributions to society.

St Helens in particular states the importance of learning and development. The council has a dedicated training hub for Children’s Services, advertising all new training courses, as well as offering apprenticeships, providing all council employees, regardless of their age, length of service or job role, with the opportunity to undertake a vocational, workplace qualification.

Further developments

Local authorities’ favouring permanent roles aligns with ongoing efforts to address critical shortages and improve workforce retention within children’s social services. Recent studies shed light on the growing trend of councils offering incentive payments, commonly referred to as “golden hellos,” to attract and retain social workers amid mounting challenges.

The surge in vacancies for children and family social workers, as highlighted in the latest Department for Education figures, highlights the urgency for innovative recruitment strategies. Factors such as high turnover rates and the allure of agency positions have prompted local authorities to rethink their approach, with many now offering welcome payments of up to £8,000 to entice candidates into vital roles within children’s services departments.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), for instance, introduced a lump-sum welcome payment of £5,000 to case-holding social workers, emphasising the importance of incentivising long-term commitment. Similarly, Sefton Council implemented a £3,000 one-off incentive to new permanent social worker employees, signalling a concerted effort to compete with agency pay rates and prioritise workforce stability.

However, the path towards sustainable workforce management is not without challenges. The recent decision by the Department for Education to dilute proposed national rules on agency social worker pay reflects the complex interplay of stakeholder interests and concerns. While the aim to reduce workforce churn and enhance continuity of support remains paramount, the revised approach acknowledges the need for further consultation and collaboration across the sector.

In navigating these dynamics, local authorities must strike a balance between addressing immediate staffing needs and implementing long-term solutions. By embracing the principles of stability, investment, and community engagement inherent in permanent roles, councils can lay the foundation for a resilient and empowered workforce, capable of meeting the evolving needs of children, families, and communities.

Find out more

Pertemps Social Care has consultants who specialise in permanent opportunities in great teams and excellent local authorities. Contact us now to fine out more.