The authority is redesigning its service with the aim of improving its rating from ‘adequate’ to ‘good’, and one of its key priorities is both attracting and retaining more social workers.
Currently West Sussex County Council is spending more than £2m a year on agency staff and there are currently 83 vacancies out of 284 social worker posts in the proposed new structure.
Proposals would see them set up a Children’s Social Work Academy, with the capacity to support and train 20 newly qualified social workers a year.
Plans would also see £523,000 put towards the one-off recruitment of an additional 12 newly qualified social workers and three experienced social workers from September 2015.
The county council has also allocated an extra £888,000 towards filling all 83 vacancies with agency staff for 15 weeks from the go-live date for the new structure.
The total cost of the two measures is £1.411m.
However in the long term WSCC hopes to reduce overall costs by having less agency staff, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the service with the aim of reducing the number of children looked after by the authority.
The academy model would provide better training, with support staff taking on much of the administrative work, allowing social care workers to spend more time with children and their families.
The council has also launched a national marketing campaign to recruit new and experienced social workers.
Peter Evans, WSCC’s cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “Our social work academy will guide and steer newly qualified social workers through that crucial first year of practice. Only the most promising and passionate advocates of children and young people will be selected to take part in this programme.
“It’s the first of its kind in our part of the world along the south coast and we are really very proud of it.
“We’re confident this is the best way forward to us. We believe this transformation of our service will lead to better results for our children and our young people and, for us, that’s what it’s all about.”
Annie Maciver, director of family operations at the county council, added: “We believe this new approach to children’s social care and our academy will help us to recruit, train and grow social workers throughout their entire careers. And we know that doing things this way will mean that these social workers will be there to show the next generation of social workers the way forward.
“Our new recruits will be able to experience a broad range of casework from assessments, child protection, court work, children looked after and leaving care. This will support them to become confident, competent and resilient social workers who are equipped to work across the children’s social care system.”
For more information about the academy or a career in social work visit www.withyoueverystep.co.uk
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