BBC news reports that the Government plans to introduce a fast track recruitment scheme to attract people such as lawyers and teachers to change career to child protection social work. Apparently bursaries of £15,000 will be available.
Any such scheme will be an unmitigated disaster unless it is coupled to other measures designed to address the underlying reasons why so many people have left the profession in recent years. It is not just shortage of resources and high workloads which make child protection social work unattractive. The relentless bureaucratisation is also an important factor. The massive procedural manuals (the all-London procedures are over 500 pages) are only partly to blame. The infamous ICS "exemplars" and associated computer systems which force practitioners to enter data rather than to do the job are important culprits too.
And then there is the blame culture! People cannot do demanding work creatively and sensitively if they feel that a sword of Damocles is being held above their heads. Politicians are only too relieved to have some-one, usually relatively junior, to blame when things go wrong. But if more good people are to be recruited, and retained, then the "usual scapegoats" mentality has to be abandoned. Otherwise new recruits, like many of their predecessors, will quickly vote with their feet and it will be back to square one. Ed Balls and his team should start to concentrate on ways of making the job much more attractive and much safer for those who do this difficult work. A big ask, perhaps, but nothing less is likely to solve the problem.