Intake of new social workers to ease council's reliance on agency staff

Wakefield Town Hall
Wakefield Town Hall

An influx of newly qualified social workers could help ease Wakefield Council's reliance on agency staff, councillors have been told.

The local authority's children's services was spending around £2m on non-permanent workers to fill gaps in the understaffed department, it was revealed in November.

Director of Wakefield's children's services Beate Wagner

Director of Wakefield's children's services Beate Wagner

To address the issue in the long-term, the council set up an "academy" for aspiring social workers.

In an update at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, the service's director Beate Wagner said new recruits were already coming through, which means the authority will soon be less dependent on agency workers.

She said: "We've got an academy in place, and we're now just looking at the next steps for that - how can we take that to the next level?

"Our reputation with student social workers is really, really growing and we're just in the process of a recruitment drive for newly qualified social workers, and we've had a fantastic response.

"We've had more than 40 applicants, and we're starting to feel more confident that we should be able to address the issue of agency staff on a far more reasonable timescale than we were actually hoping for."

Ms Wagner said that workloads for newly qualified staff had fallen, in keeping with demands made of the service by Ofsted.

The education watchdog placed Wakefield's children's services in special measures last summer, but later allowed the council to keep hold of it after short-term improvements were made.

Inspectors will come back again to see the service in May, following their latest visit in February.

Ms Wagner said that progress had been made in a number of areas, including the speed with which children at risk of harm are seen by an intervening social worker.

Levels of supervision given to staff and return home interviews, which are carried out when a missing looked after child comes back, need to be improved, she added.

Local Democracy Reporting Service