Thursday, 28 April 2011

Children's Social Work - Recruitment and Retention

It was interesting to hear Andrew Adonis on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours yesterday discussing the state of children’s social work. 

Adonis, who was among other things a junior children’s minister in the last government, seemed to be in favour of recruiting the ‘brightest and the best’, by introducing social work’s equivalent of the Teach First charity which places ‘exceptional graduates’ into ‘schools in challenging circumstances'

Sadly I think he misses the point. It is not just a matter of giving people more support and status. The problems with recruitment, and particularly retention, in children’s social work are very deep seated. They concern the fact that the job has become progressively harder to do because of ever more prescriptive guidelines and regulations and the introduction of the Integrated Children’s System (ICS), which forces practitioners to complete assessments based on ‘exemplars’ which hinder, rather than help, effective decision-making. Add to that the pervasive blame culture and it is not difficult to see why so many people come into children’s social work only to move on.

The best starting point is to think much more creatively about how to re-design both jobs and organisations to make children’s social work more do-able. This is not just a local matter, because many of the obstacles are to be found in government guidance and the imposition of working practices, through ICS, which are both unrealistic and unnecessary. There needs to be a radical simplification of regulation and guidance and the replacement of ICS with systems which actually support practice, through reducing bureaucracy and making effective case recording less burdensome.