Investment paying off for children’s social services

Huge investment is seeing Wakefield Council improve the lives of children across the district though the recruitment and retention of social workers.

Ambitious targets and changes have meant the Council has seen a 60 per cent reduction in agency staff and a vacancy rate lower than the national average (15.4 per cent compared to 16.4 per cent) – while also increasing the number of social work posts by 82.

The Learning Academy has progressed from strength to strength with the creation of a one-stop shop website that puts all practice resources in one place and a live learning offer in place enhancing practice.

In a recent survey, 95.96 per cent of social workers confirmed that the learning opportunities made a difference to their practice.

A new progression framework to support staff to grow and develop all the way from newly qualified to more senior social workers.

It aims to give staff the opportunities to become practice leaders and beyond through tailored learning.

Other enhancements include much-improved record keeping and auditing plus a quality assurance system focusing on quality and outcomes.

Further monitoring has focussed on five areas:

  • Manageable caseloads;
  • recording data;
  • quality and learning;
  • workforce recruitment and retention;
  • and quality of frontline practice.

The impact of this was recognised by Ofsted inspectors in a published letter following their most recent focused visit.

They noted how “[a]dditional investment in staffing and resources is helping not only to stabilise the workforce, but to improve the quality of social work practice.”

This has also been linked to the establishment of a more positive work culture in Wakefield and a growing reputation across the region as a Council where social work thrives.

In a recent survey, 93.52 per cent of social workers said they would recommend Wakefield to other social workers.

Further results found that social workers felt supported by management, which meant they felt safe to practice social work in Wakefield, giving them the opportunity to focus on improving outcomes for children.

This was additionally seen as a reason for remaining working as a social worker in Wakefield.

Margaret Isherwood smiling
Cllr Margaret Isherwood

Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “I’m delighted by the progress being made.

“We’ve been successful in driving down case workloads and achieving greater workforce stability.

“We know there’s still more work to be done. But we have the people and systems in place to continue striving for the highest standards, so that children and young people can get the help and protection they need.”

As part of the improvement journey, the Council allocated £1.3m for children’s social care and £1m for children’s residential care in just the 2021-22 budget alone.

Additional investment in staffing and resources has also contributed to a reduction in staff turnover by nearly half and has seen sickness rates cut by more than 50 per cent.

This is allowing Wakefield’s local children and young people to benefit from contact and support from a stable permanent workforce.

Cllr Isherwood added: “The improvement of our children’s services continues to remain a top priority.

“The hard work, dedication and professionalism of our staff has seen us make great strides in the quest to be considered outstanding in this important field. I have confidence in where it will continue to lead us.”