Interview: Leicestershire County Council on children’s social care recruitment

Social Care Today editor Chloe Coules sits down with Hollie Martin, Service Manager at Leicestershire County Council, to discuss the challenges that councils face when recruiting social workers and how they are trying to attract new talent.

What are some of the challenges that councils face when recruiting social workers?

Hollie Martin tells Social Care Today there can sometimes be ‘competitiveness’ in the market between local authorities to attract qualified social workers: ‘There’s obviously only a set number of social workers who qualify each year. We also know that social workers often only stay in the profession for a certain period of time.’

She says at a national level, it is especially challenging to recruit experienced social workers due to this movement out of the sector over time, especially away from frontline roles such as in child protection or assessment teams.

‘We know that social workers over time usually get experience in those teams but then want to move to other areas such as fostering or adoption or being an Independent Reviewing Officer. The challenge is knowing that it is positive to see social workers developing in their careers and moving on to different roles, yet we still want to make sure we try and have that recruitment in the key frontline roles too.’

What factors affect why social workers move on?

‘From personal experience I know that social work is a really demanding role,’ says Hollie. ‘It’s really challenging, you work in the public sector where there are lots of families in need of help and support and social workers are trying to provide the best support that they can within the resources that they have.’

‘It’s a high-pressured role and it can be very emotionally and psychologically demanding, and I think that probably leads to people not staying in the profession as long as they might in other areas.’

What are you doing as a council to tackle some of these issues?

‘The wellbeing of our staff is something that is really important to us and something we are really focused on,’ says Hollie.

Leicestershire County Council are on a journey to become a trauma informed organisation, which means not only recognising the trauma faced by families that they work with, but also recognising the trauma experienced by practitioners, and how both groups can be best supported.

‘We know that when social workers are working with families in really challenging situations, they can often take on that stress, emotion and the vicarious trauma thorough supporting families in really difficult circumstances. We know that can have an impact on their wellbeing, so we are really focused on how we support that,’ she explains.

Part of this support available is Leicestershire’s Critical Incident Response Service, which provides social workers with access to a trained therapist if a significant event happens in their caseload.

‘If a social worker ever has a very significant or traumatic event happen with the children or family they work with, we get them access to a trained therapist within 48 hours, who provides support for them over a number of weeks,’ says Hollie.

Hollie explains that they also have a wellbeing service specifically for their staff in children’s social care, with a therapist on call once per week that staff can book wellbeing sessions with on the day or the day before.

‘So far, with both of those things, we have had really good feedback from staff in terms of having that available to them, to support them in what is a very challenging role,’ says Hollie.

Click here to view Leicestershire County Council’s Social Care Vacancies 

Are there enough people qualifying and what do council’s need to do to get them through the door?

Hollie explains that on a national level there are discussions around whether there are enough people qualifying as social workers, and newly qualified social workers are a vital part of any team.

‘I know for us, we do really value having newly qualified social workers because the bring their energy, enthusiasm and really want to get involved and learn,’ she says. ‘We love to support social workers in their early careers, and hope that they then continue with us into the future from that solid base’.

In order to encourage newly qualified staff, Leicestershire County Council works closely with local universities, with staff delivering lectures for university students and lecturers coming to share knowledge at the Council.

They are also holding online events to tell newly qualified workers about the organisation and their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) programme, which helps newly qualified social workers through their first year in employment. They receive great feedback on their ASYE program from social workers who have recently completed it.

Why do you enjoy working in social care at the Council and why should other people work there?

‘I’ve worked for Leicestershire County Council since I qualified as a social worker about 10 years ago now. I’ve always been here, and I have found them a really supportive employer that really listens to my views as a member of staff. They are curious about what they can do to help improve things, they want to really listen to the value that all staff that work in Leicestershire,’ says Hollie.

She adds that she has felt supported in her career development: ‘Personally, I found it a really good local authority to progress in my career. I had a lot of support to do my Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) programme, and I then did lots of other training opportunities. I did my practice educator qualification and that really helped me progress from a social worker to a manager and then into my role now as a service manager.’

‘I think it’s a really great local authority that likes to grow its own and help develop and shape people that want to progress. There is so much training and support available on any topic you need input on, and there’s lots of great managers. I’ve been really lucky to have really good managers throughout my career and that always made me want to stay. It’s a very supportive place to work.’

Hollie explains that Leicestershire also puts emphasis on celebrating people’s achievements and good practise, with annual awards for social workers and other childcare workers and three annual conferences for staff.

If you are interested in finding out more about working at Leicestershire County Council, view their current vacancies here.  


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