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Could Liverpool Council's big recruitment drive for social workers harm other areas?

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 29/01/2019 Faye Brown
a person sitting on the ground © Credits: PA

 A mass recruitment drive for social workers in Liverpool could pose major harm to neighbouring authorities by purging them of staff, it has been claimed.

The boss of children’s services in Halton warned the city council’s plans to hire over 100 new council staff  posed a threat to the workforce of the hard-hit borough, at a children and young person’s policy meeting last night.

Last week it was announced that Liverpool City Council is set to hire 160 new staff members as part of an ‘unprecedented’ £8m restructuring .

The radical recruitment drive is hoped to cut down the overwhelming case load of children’s social workers in the city by half.

a person sitting on the ground: A child sitting on some stairs (posed by a model) © Credits: Jon Challicom/NSPCC/PA Wire A child sitting on some stairs (posed by a model)

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The 160 positions will include 115 social workers, 18 senior social workers and 22 deputy team managers  who will provide increased oversight and management of cases for the city’s 1,250 looked after children.

But while this may be welcome news for Liverpool Council- which was hit with a warning by Ofsted last year about its unmanageable case load – it has posed a worry for other areas struggling to cope with increased demand.

Tracey Coffey, Director of Children’s Services in Halton, expressed fears that staff may jump ship if Liverpool offered better terms and conditions than those in smaller areas outside the city, like Runcorn and Widnes.

She warned on Tuesday’s meeting: “The recruitment drive in Liverpool is a new  emerging threat that has come very recently.

“I can understand why they have done it. But it’s a huge number to recruit and we don’t know how Liverpool are going to approach that.

“We want to make sure that we anticipate what Liverpool may do, and make sure our workforce know they are valued and have opportunities for development.”

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Like Liverpool, demand for social services in Halton is increasing .

At last night’s meeting, council officers said the “unprecedented stress” imposed by the controversial  universal credit benefits system and a rise in domestic violence cases were some reasons for a recent spike in demand.

Ms Coffey said she suspected other areas outside Liverpool would be worried by the recruitment drive, revealing that an action plan has been put in place to prevent staff from leaving.

  In the ten days since the plans were announced, Halton Council have already established a task group who will work with HR and recruitment  teams to mitigate the threat of a depleted work force.

 
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Ms Coffey told board members: “We are taking steps to ensure that people are tied to us, for want of a better term.

“It’s not just about money, or terms and conditions, it’s about what makes it a safe place to work.

“The average time a social worker remains in the job is seven years, because it is a hard, tough job.

“Our work force is actually quite stable, but it’s something we need to continue to work on.

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“We need to ensure that we are offering lots of student placements, so when they apply for their first job, they have got experience from talking to colleagues about how safe a place it is to work

“We need to ensure our staff have support, supervision and high levels of training.

“Other local authorities, because of the budget situation, have reduced the amount of training, but we have made a concious decision not to do that and that’s one way we can keep people.”

   

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