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Social workers who work with complex children’s cases to receive extra £6,000 each

SENIOR social workers who deal with the most complex children’s cases in Swansea are getting an extra £6,000 each to help tackle a staffing crisis.

The payment is one of several measures introduced by the council’s child and family services department.

Team managers and lead practitioners who supervise these senior social workers are receiving a £3,000 retention payment, while all newly-qualified children’s social workers have moved to the top of their respective pay grade and now earn £32,910 per year.

There were no responses to a recent advert for a senior social worker post in Swansea. Only two candidates replied to a separate advert for a social worker. Other councils are experiencing the same problem.

The senior social workers who deal with the most complex cases, involving child protection for example, are spread across three teams but are only at 70% strength. Covid-related absences are a factor.

A report before a council scrutiny panel said: “Staffing is now at a critical point in the three area teams, and despite consistent attempts to recruit this has been to no avail.”

Julie Davies, Swansea’s head of child and family services, told the panel that social workers in these teams should have no more than 15 cases at any one time, and would normally have 12 to 14 cases.

But she said caseload numbers had crept up recently to the late teens for some of the more experienced staff and, in a couple of cases, “the early 20s”.

Ms Davies said those with the highest caseload were offered extra support, supervision and “reflective time”.

In addition, family support workers are now carrying out specific tasks which will enable their senior social worker colleagues to focus on priority cases – and a further eight family support worker posts have been created for 12 months.

“I am confident that come the new year we will be in a better position,” said Ms Davies.

Councillors on the panel asked about the different social worker qualification routes, and what links the authority had with local universities which ran social worker courses.

Cllr Mike Durke said he thought it was “ludicrous” that a social worker graduate in their early 20s could be more qualified than someone with several years’ experience of helping to look after children.

He wanted to see people in the latter category, for example experienced social care workers, given the chance to qualify quickly as a social worker.

“What we need is more people with knowledge, experience, skills and aptitude,” he said. “We should be encouraging these people into the (social worker) role.”

He added: “Because at the moment we are taking risks with children’s welfare because of a staffing issue and that is completely unacceptable.”

Ms Davies said non-social workers roles were “very much valued” and that the department was working really hard to ensure that children in Swansea were kept safe.

She added: “Social work is not an attractive career at the moment in the UK, and it’s not helped by the very poor press that generally this career receives – even when legislation quite clearly states that we are all here to keep children safe together.”

She said it took “a whole village to raise a child”, but that the media “choose to introduce quite readily a blame culture and point the finger at one particular profession”.

Swansea has 200 young people on the child protection register, according to the latest data, and 496 looked-after children. Both figures are lower compared to the same time 12 months ago.

But the proportion of statutory child protection visits carried out on time has fallen.

Cllrs Des Thomas and Paxton Hood-Williams asked for assurances that, as far as possible, the tragedy of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, of Solihull, West Midlands, who was poisoned, starved and beaten by his stepmother and father in the weeks leading up to his death, could not happen in Swansea.

Ms Davies said such risks were being managed well in Swansea, and that partnerships with other agencies such the police had been strengthened.

“I think we are doing everything that we possibly can with making best use use of all our resources across the department,” she said.


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