Staff shortages affect social services

RECRUITING and keeping staff in adult and children services is a challenge for Pembrokeshire County Council, according to recent reports.

A focus on what requires scrutiny over the coming year by the social care overview and scrutiny committee was developed with the use of three reports relating to the directorate, its workforce plan and safeguarding strategy.

At Thursday’s (Jun 20) meeting of the committee, director of social services Jonathan Griffiths said that “one of the fundamental issues we face now and in the coming year is the supply of workforce, particularly across the domiciliary care sector.”

He told members that it was a problem across the country but a Pembrokeshire solution was needed to address it locally.

Providing statutory serves with a flat-lined budget also caused problems as the directorate had to “manage and absorb all our problems in relation to demand within the budget envelope.”

There was a need to make savings of around £4.9million in the £60million adult services budget, added Mr Griffiths.

Increasing the number of foster carers was also highlighted as an important part of future work and ensuring the best care for children in Pembrokeshire, said Cllr Tessa Hodgson, cabinet member for social services.

When it came to social workers, Pembrokeshire has been training or “growing” its own, said Mr Griffiths, with a regional plan being developed to overcome pay disparities with other authorities.

It did however lead to some problems with workload, the committee heard, with newly qualified social workers having a “protected caseload” for the first two years, with greater pressure on more senior staff.

Cllr Vic Dennis asked if there as confidence in the level of risk with the number of staff with less experience – 15 percent in children’s care and 18 per cent in adult care – with Mr Griffiths saying he had confidence, as did regulatory bodies.

Cllr Simon Hancock referred to high numbers of staff absences due to stress and the change to agile working had also been unpopular, according to the report  to committee.

Mr Griffiths said the department was not “shying away from that” and there was an open door policy encouraging staff to share any issues as soon as possible.

A number of the issues raised by councillors will be discussed in greater detail later in the year as part of the scrutiny committee’s forward work plan, including recruitment, training, grievances and complaints and pay disparities.

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