Social work recruitment and retention remains the priority for Children’s Services. This paper provides an update on recruitment and retention and sets out the challenges currently facing Medway.
The Chief Organisational Culture Officer introduced the report which provided an update on recruitment and retention and set out the challenges facing Medway, and set out the national context.
Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:
Overseas Recruitment Programme - it was asked whether the Council continued its overseas recruitment programme and what percentage of social workers were retained. The Officer said that 80% of the staff recruited were retained and whilst the programme had been successful, there has been many associated challenges. At this time this was not being looked at as an option to stabilise the workforce.
It was commented that a stable workforce was crucial to the improvement journey and it was worrying that the situation, which was not limited to Medway was deteriorating.
National Representation - it was asked what has been done to reinforce the situation to Central Government and what was being done by Medway MP’s. The Director of People said that this was a historical workforce issue that was recognised nationally. The Association of Children’s Services was lobbying Government on this matter on a regular basis. The issues had been a matter of priority for Medway MP’s in particular as a result of the Improvement Journey but focus had drifted recently in light of other significant National issues.
The Memorandum of Cooperation for Agency staff to manage the associated costs with agency worker supply and demand had been useful in sending the message to the market that all Local Authorities (LA) were to operate in the same way. There had, however, been a small number of breeches, but the majority of LA’s adhered to the terms.
Recruitment Options – in response to a question on what other options were being looked into to recruit staff, the Officer said that the focus was on Medway investing in its own. The Council had a successful apprenticeship academy and would be expanding on its pathways.
It was further asked if the targeted recruitment campaign that was planned would only use the Guardian Recruitment, the Officer said that the Guardian had not been used by Medway for some time and the thinking behind its use at this time was the ability to target a wider catchment, particularly given that there was more flexibility on locations and days required to attend the office with our new ways of working.
Best Value – in response to a question on what was being done to achieve best value and saving money by not always using consultants. The Director of People said that very little work was done by consultants due to the high cost. Consultants were only used where needed as part of a particular project as part of the improvement journey. Funds were mainly used for recruitment and retention of permanent staff.
Staff Morale – it was asked what creative measures were used to improve staff morale. The Officer said that the staff reference group and Medway Makers were useful tools in teasing out what was important to staff and how to address issues. Engagement and communication with staff remained a priority for the senior leadership team. The officer shared that there was currently the annual staff survey out which would capture a number of themes and test how staff were feeling. This will be crucial to guide us through to next year.
Staff Sickness - the number of days lost in children’s services due to sickness in comparison to the rest of the Council was high and it was asked what the presenting factors were. The Officer said that they were currently undertaking a deep dive into short and long term sickness. The latest rise in
sickness was due to stress and depression which could be attributed to being in a pressurised workforce. Staff were being encouraged to prioritise their wellbeing and work was being done with public health on ways to address issues with wellbeing. Support for staff as part of the return to work process was in place as well as departmental mental health champions and access to Care First 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Director of People added that staff had incurred significant stress in trying
to fill gaps due to staff shortage and must be commended for stepping up and going the extra mile in difficult times where a high number of referrals continued to be received by the department.
The Committee noted the report.