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Plans revealed to reduce Norfolk’s reliance on agency social workers

Officers at Norfolk County Council have laid out new plans for the recruitment and retention of social workers. Picture: Archant

Officers at Norfolk County Council have laid out new plans for the recruitment and retention of social workers. Picture: Archant

Archant

A new blueprint for social worker recruitment in Norfolk has been revealed to county councillors.

Measures such as recruiting other professionals to share the workload and maintaining teaching partnerships to improve the pipeline of newly qualified social workers were set out in the report on social worker recruitment and retention.

Elly Starling, lead HR and OD business partner for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, presented the report to the council’s children’s services committee on Tuesday.

She said: “There is still a national shortage of qualified social workers. As a result of that there has been a lot of effort to invest in social workers.

“We are currently looking at our delivery model for social care. We have to be creative in funding solutions to ensure that our social workers have the right number of cases but also that we have the right number of people in our system to help children when they need it.”

The report said the council is working to “remodel how social work provision is provided” – including bringing in other practitioners such as therapists and psychologists to share the workload, which Ms Starling said could mean “not as many social workers” were needed.

The ultimate aim is to reduce the county’s reliance on agency staff. According to Department for Education data, Norfolk still uses a higher rate of agency social workers that the national average (23pc vs 16pc).

But this level has fallen by 14pc in Norfolk in the past year – and in the council’s latest performance monitoring report, its forecast spend on agency social workers was £300,000 under budget.

There are currently 438 people in the council’s social worker team (full-time equivalent roles), with around 36 vacancies.

Ms Starling estimates that the department will be “fully staffed” by summer 2019 – by when the number of budgeted posts will have been reduced by 30.

A strong pool of social workers is considered key to supporting the council’s adoption and fostering services, which have both been highly commended by watchdogs, and its children’s homes, of which seven out of nine are rated as good or outstanding.

The council’s forward plan for its children’s homes, put forward at Tuesday’s meeting, includes a desire to “offer more placements for student social workers... across our homes”.

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