Wednesday, 20 July 2016

“Long in the tooth …”

Those are the words which a child protection social worker writing in Community Care used to describe herself. She considers herself a “veteran” in child protection. Very few other social workers have stuck the course as long as she has, she says.

How long has she been working in child protection? Eight years – yes eight years!

Of course it is not survey or a research finding – it’s just the personal report of one person – but research does support the view that eight years is a long time in child protection social work [1]. And it is a graphic way of putting it – “long in the tooth” she says!

We really have to get to grips with this issue. A profession that burns out its members in under 10 years is always going to struggle. It will struggle because the initial training cost per post will be unrealistically high. It will struggle to find sufficient new recruits. It will struggle because the proportion of recently qualified people in the workforce will be very large. It will struggle to find mentors and senior practitioners. It will struggle to deepen the pool of professional learning and experience. It will struggle to provide continuity to service users.

If this new government had any sense it would prioritise RETENTION of social workers in child protection.

But I don’t expect it will … hey ho!

[1] Curtis L, Moriarty J and Netten A (2010), ‘The expected working life of a social worker’. British Journal of Social Work 40(5), 1628-1643.