Agenda item


Purpose of the report:

This report provides an update on the Recruitment, Retention & Culture Programme, its aims, scope, activity so far this year and the priorities going forward. The Children’s Social Care Workforce Strategy has recently been developed and is included in this report along with an initial thematic analysis of recent exit survey responses. An update on recruitment and retention of children’s social care staff with key performance information has been included as well. 




Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

Matt Ansell, Director – Safeguarding and Family Resilience


Key points raised in the discussion:

  1. The Chairman asked about the support in place for female employees, as they made up 86% of the workforce. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families explained that she would provide a written response to this, as it required a broader discussion with partners in health and ASC. The Cabinet Member for Education Learning noted that it was also important to support men who may not feel represented in the workforce and questioned whether the proportion of women was also reflected in leadership roles.


  1. In response to questions on social workers leaving with less than two years service and responses in exit interviews, the Director explained that it was a national trend for social workers to move on around after a year to two years. The Council supported an assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) two-year programme for newly qualified social workers. The Council had been involved in working with the Department for Education (DfE) on developing the early career framework, especially for social workers. The exit interview process had been refined to gain the granular detail for why people were leaving. The Member asked whether people were leaving the profession or pursuing it elsewhere. The Director confirmed that people were usually leaving the profession. The makeup of the social work workforce had changed, as the entry requirements were different.


  1. A Member questioned whether the workload was manageable and asked whether the high cost of living in Surrey was a deterrent to employment stability. The Director explained that caseloads fluctuated and currently some social workers had higher caseloads than they would want. The early intervention work was trying to reduce the casework coming from children of certain cohorts, as the balance of children contributed to the workload as well as the numbers of children. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families added that affordability of housing was a significant issue, and the Council was looking into the possibility of key worker housing and/or housing with care and support.


  1. Responding to a question on the day-to-day pressures for social workers, the Director explained that there had been difficulties in recruiting agency staff which was impacting on the workload and pressures of permanent staff. In the longer term, the ambition was to improve the proportion of agency to permanent staff. There had been meetings with agency staff to discuss how their package with their agency compared to the Council’s employment package. The Care Review suggested considering utilising alternative qualified professionals alongside social workers.


  1. A Member enquired about the timescale to improve the workforce position for social workers. The Director explained that they were bringing in a higher number of newly qualified social workers on the ASYE programme. There was work to improve the Council’s online presence regarding recruitment of experienced social workers. There had been discussions about offering work experience to students in their final year at local universities. By increasing the number of agency social workers again, then the permanent social workers would be more likely to stay as well. The Executive Director for Children, Families and Lifelong Learning sat on the national panel for recruitment and retention of ASYEs.


  1. In response to a question on the pathways into social work, the Director explained that there were several channels, such as step up to social work which was a three-year programme, and the Council was taking an additional cohort in September. The Council had also agreed some apprenticeships, although these came at a financial cost. There was a working group looking at the effectiveness of retention bonuses and exploring other payment options.


Actions/requests for further information:

  1. The Cabinet Member for Children and Families to provide a written response regarding the support provided to female social workers specifically by the end of November 2022.


  1. The Director for Safeguarding and Family Resilience to provide the current average number of caseloads per social worker by the end of November 2022.



1.     That the Service reviews its appointment procedures for internal candidates, to consider how promotion opportunities can be enhanced in order to retain staff with expertise.


2.     That the Service offers its support in arranging for CFLLC Select Committee Members to have informal meetings with social care staff, so that a) the Committee has a better understanding of their roles and b) social care staff have an opportunity to talk frankly about their work and what they require from their managers in order to ease the pressures in the roles they carry out.


3.     That the Committee agrees to receive updates on Recommendations 1 and 2 plus a further general update on the Recruitment, Retention & Culture programme and the development and implementation of the Children’s Social Care Workforce Strategy at a meeting in 2023.

Supporting documents: