Cabinet agrees in principle to new strategy for children's social care

The council’s cabinet has agreed in principle to a new strategy for children and young people’s social care in Peterborough at a meeting on Monday 3 August 2015.

It follows a self-assessment of the Children's Services department by its new senior leadership team who were appointment in March.

A key aspect of the approach is to address the national shortage of skilled and experienced social workers.

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director: people and communities, said: “Because of the national shortage we, like many other authorities in the UK, are struggling to appoint as many permanent experienced social workers as we want to. Posts aren’t left vacant in Peterborough and we will always contract qualified agency social care workers; but this is expensive and inevitably leads to a high level of agency staff turnover.

“The key to good social work is to build mutually respectful and trusting relationships between our staff and the children and families they work with. Many agency staff only stay with us for a short time and therefore relationships have to be re-established.

“Our new strategy aims to create a sustainable service for the future that ensures children and young people in need of our help and protection are given good quality support.”

Peterborough currently contracts 30 agency staff to ensure that all of the city’s 87 qualified social worker posts are filled. Typically an agency social worker costs approximately £60,500 per annum compared to the annual cost of employing a social worker of between £37,000 and £45,000.

The new in principle strategy to continue to improve outcomes for children and young people in Peterborough is summarised as follows:

  • A review of the council’s recruitment and retention arrangements for staff in Children’s Services. This will cover pay and reward as well as a higher profile training and development programme
  • Increasing team manager capacity by establishing two additional posts. Team managers are arguably the most important layer of management in terms of consistency of social work
  • A pilot recruitment of 12 specialist team support workers who will work, under qualified guidance, with children in need with lower priority needs and support the work of social workers with more complex cases. This will be supported by continued deployment of experienced social workers in complex family situations
  • A new multi-disciplinary service that supports young people with complex needs, located within the Youth Offending Service
  • Additional initial screening capacity and greater emphasis on the use of Early Help services to children and young people
  • Commissioning a leading charity to address families affected by chronic neglect issues in the city
  • Improved use of technology so that social workers and staff can access and update information when making visits – leading to significant time savings
  • Costs and savings associated with the new strategy will be reported back to Cabinet at a later date

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn said: “The reality is that there is a shortage of experienced social workers in the UK. By improving our reward structure and professional development support, it will help us to compete with other local authorities – but this is ultimately an issue of supply and demand.

“This strategy will change the service so it is sustainable for the future. In the short-term we need to improve our recruitment and retention of staff. In the long–term we are aiming to reduce our reliance on qualified social workers by, for example, employing specialist support staff to work with children with lower priority needs. We will always continue to use experienced social workers in complex situations and for children on protection plans but I believe that our new strategy will better address the variety of needs and challenges faced by children, young people and families in our city.” 

You can read more about the strategy in the cabinet report.

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