As a children’s social worker either permanent or locum, the current Child and Family Social Worker Workforce Consultation needs to be top of the list for your consideration right now.
As part of the recommendations from the DFE Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy, this consultation seeks to change the way agency social workers can be procured with a set of national rules outlining restrictions to practice.
What this consultation does not take into consideration is that sadly, our social care system is in crisis. Children are at risk of not receiving the care they require. With more than 8 in 10 councils having difficulty recruiting children’s Social Workers and 72% failing to retain them, we ask, are agency workers essential to keeping the system from falling to its knees completely?
Our long-held belief is that Locum Social Workers provide the pillars of support our social care sector couldn’t survive without. They deliver immeasurable value to their colleagues and clients, and a quality of care further enhanced by many other benefits.
Let us share our thoughts.
Agency Workers Provide Support to Stabilise a Declining Workforce
According to the 2022 Children’s Services Omnibus Report, none of the Local Authorities surveyed felt they would have the workforce required to meet the children’s social care needs projected for 2023.
The unfortunate truth is the social care sector is overwhelmed, with high caseloads and complex cases adding to the demands on the system. This places those who provide vital care for children at risk of burnout, declining mental health and reduced well-being daily.
Until this workforce crisis is addressed, the sector must rely on Locum Social Workers for support. To place too severe a restriction on how the services of this group of professionals can be utilised will only add to the burgeoning pressure and compromise the quality of the services offered and received.
A Happier and More Satisfied Workforce
Many factors influence a person's choice to opt for agency work vs a permanent position, but with this sector in mind, rising workloads, feeling unsupported and being vulnerable to burnout are among the many contributors.
A Locum Worker is a free agent, poised to accept work on their terms.
Greater Exposure Brings Greater Experience
Agency Social Workers are exposed to a variety of cases and management styles. Each new environment brings more experience and a broader understanding of the social care system. Meanwhile cross-community experiences mean exposure to different demographics and the issues they face specifically.
With this variation in working environments, Locum Workers bring a body of work experience that makes them valuable resources to any team or Local Authority.
Ready Relationship Builders
Relationships are at the heart of social care. Establishing trust with colleagues and clients is critical to delivering a service that upholds the sector's code.
Agency workers are skilled at adapting to new environments and can quickly connect with peers and service users. The ability to form authentic connections as they hit the ground makes their arrival seamless, allows continuity of care and cements them as reliable links in a weakened chain.
A Wider Support Network
Social work is emotionally gruelling. This has never been truer than it is today. With resourcing issues continuing to place the existing workforce under significant pressure, concern for their fragility mounts.
Whilst Social Workers can seek support from friends and family, there is significant value in gaining this support from a professional network. A locum workforce helps to bolster this network and gives those who need it someone to offload, decompress and sound off with.
Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
The freedom to choose contracts and hours of work allows agency Social Workers with external commitments to structure their work around their life. Not the other way around. With this flexibility comes reduced pressure and ease of life.
Time and space to focus on personal well-being between contracts is another advantage. By nature, social work requires professionals to give a lot of themselves. For this to be sustainable, time to replenish this energy output must be made.
A Social Worker who can make time for personal well-being and isn’t carrying the burden of external pressures will bring more energy and focus to their work.
Without a permanent role, a Locum Social Worker has more time to focus on additional training and professional development, such as those offered through BASW. At the same time, they can ensure they're up to date with all the latest regulations and legislation.
A highly skilled and current workforce can only mean improved services and better client outcomes. Not to mention better support for local authorities under pressure.
A requirement is that all procurement routes used by LAs to engage agency social workers must adhere to the national rules
The introduction of national price caps on what local authorities may pay per hour for an agency social worker
A requirement for social workers who graduated in or after April 2024 to demonstrate a minimum of five years post-qualified experience working within LA children’s social care and completion of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) in order to qualify for an agency appointment
No longer using “managed service”/“project” teams for child and family social work
A requirement for employers to request and provide references for all agency social worker candidates
Not engaging agency workers for a period of three months after they have left a substantive role within the same region (excluding certain exceptions)
A requirement of a minimum of a six-week notice period for agency social workers via a reciprocal arrangement between agency workers and LAs. To minimise immediate or quick departures and the associated impact on children and families and the wider workforce
The collection and sharing of core agency and pay data, to support better workforce planning and the ability to monitor, enforce and assess the impact of the proposals
Have Your Say
According to the REC and the BASW, the increasing reliance on Locum Social Workers is a symptom of a sector without a workforce plan. Without such a plan, caseloads will continue to increase, working conditions will continue to decline and the numbers leaving the profession permanently or in favour of agency work will continue to grow.
Whilst there's a long way to go before an agreement on the best way forward can be reached, we hope that Locum Social Workers will be seen as valued members of an exceptional workforce and, therefore, integral to the solution.
As members of this sector, you’re entitled to have your say! Everyone's view is worthy, especially when that view comes from those with first-hand experience. The consultation ends on 11th May.
If you wish to discuss locum social work opportunities, you’re considering a move into a permanent position, or would like to connect with our agency candidates, contact our team today to see how we can work together.